Resilience Theory and Praxis: a Critical Framework for Architecture

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Michelle Laboy
David Fannon


The growing use of resilience as a goal of architectural practice presents a new challenge in architects’ responsibility for health, safety, welfare and poetic expression of human-building interaction. With roots in disaster response, resilience in the building industry emphasizes the preservation and rapid restoration of the physical environment’s normal function in the face of shocks and disturbances of limited duration. The focus on maintaining function, and/or rapidly returning to the status quo ante necessarily affords a narrow understanding of architecture and a limited view of the concept of resilience. While useful at certain scales of time and inquiry, this so-called engineering resilience approach is only one among many within the broad discourse across diverse disciplines such as psychology, economics, and ecology.  Drawing on the academic and professional literature of resilience outside the discipline, this paper explores the multiple competing frameworks represented; considers their influences and implications for architecture and the built environment at multiple scales; and examines the overlaps with existing discourse on change, architecture and time. The analysis of alternative concepts enables a critical perspective to move beyond the circumscribed, functionalist approach afforded by engineering resilience currently guiding architecture practice, towards a framework of social- ecological resilience that can fully embrace the richness of architecture, and results in a necessary and clear theoretical basis for the resilience of architecture over time in a climate of increasing uncertainty.

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Laboy, M., and D. Fannon. “Resilience Theory and Praxis: A Critical Framework for Architecture”. Enquiry The ARCC Journal for Architectural Research, Vol. 13, no. 1, Dec. 2016, doi:10.17831/enq:arcc.v13i2.405.
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Author Biographies

Michelle Laboy, Northeastern University

Michelle Laboy is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at Northeastern University. With training in architecture, urban planning and civil engineering, her career integrates teaching, research and practice at the intersection of Sustainable Architecture and Urban Landscapes. Studying the cultural, technological and theoretical context of what she calls architectural ecology: her work explores how buildings integrate with landscapes to create sustainable and resilient ecosystems, and to actively engage people with the natural environment.

David Fannon, Northeastern University

David Fannon is an architect and building scientist whose work integrates research, analysis, and design to provide luminous, thermal and acoustic comfort while reducing resource consumption in buildings. He holds a joint appointment in the School of Architecture and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.


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