Darren Nel - PhD. Resilience Design

0 Projects


PhD Researcher
Mr Darren Nel



PhD Title
Morphologies of Resilience: Towards an approach to the study of urban spatial resilience

urban resilience, urban morphology, spatial analysis, urban design, morphological resilience

Research Abstract
Urban resilience has become more popular in recent years. With numerous cities busy implementing resilience strategies. Many of these strategies are often limited solely to aspects of social or economic resilience and regularly neglect the issues and role of urban form in creating resilience. The UN’s newly adopted New Urban Agenda has brought the aspect of urban form to the forefront of the urban debate, not only in creating resilience but also to facilitate sustainable development.

Despite the fact that the urban form of cities are amongst the easiest aspects of cities to observe and measure, the role of the spatial [morphological] form of cities in relation to urban resilience is perhaps the least well understood, even though urban form has the potential to make the largest contribution to the overall resilience of cities. It is thus necessary to develop a deeper understanding of spatial qualities of resilience and which urban forms contribute to the formation of resilience. To address these issues, this study has three main research objectives. First, to understand how resilience manifests spatially within cities. Second, to formulate and test a methodological protocol for the analysis of spatial resilience. Third, the creation of morphological typologies which encompass the spatial qualities for urban resilience.

Research Methodology
This study uses a hybrid of two research designs, namely a methodological study (cf. Mouton, 2001) and case study (cf. Yin, 2015) research designs. The former is used to develop a protocol for the analysis of morphologically driven urban resilience, while the case study design is used to test and validate the applicability of the protocol within different spatial and data contexts.

To test the protocol, this study applies fourteen metrics, from five resilience determinants, and three spatial scales to two case study cities, namely Hong Kong SAR and New York City (USA). The metrics used rely primarily on quantitative research methods from urban morphology, urban geography and graph theory for conducting the spatial analysis of the cities. To assess which urban forms perform better within the case studies, a Gaussian finite mixed model analysis (i.e. latent class clustering), a from machine learning is applied to the results of the spatial analysis. This allows for resilient urban forms to be grouped, characterised and evaluated based on their spatial properties.

Results / Outcomes
1. Translation of resilience theory into the urban morphological dimension
2. Develop an approach to urban spatial resilience by way of morphological protocols
3. Creation of a set of resilient urban morphology typologies

Key publications

Bachelor of Town and Regional Planning (B.TRP), University of Pretoria (Distinction);
Masters of Town and Regional Planning (M.TRP), University of Pretoria (Distinction);
Registered Professional Planner, The South African Council for Planners (SACPLAN)

Dr. Gerhard Bruyns (Chief Supervisor)
Dr. Christopher Donald Higgins (External Co-supervisor)
Prof. Akkelies van Nes (External Co-supervisor)

Specialization / Interests
Urban Morphology, Spatial Planning, Urban Design, Urban Resilience, Spatial Analysis

Date of Completion
January 2021