Resilient Imaginaries: Socio-Ecological Urban Design in Metro Manila, The Philippines

Project Info
  • Theme Community-Based
  • Type Pedagogy
  • Scale Metropolitan
  • Location Philippines
  • AuthorsStephen F. GrayMary Anne Ocampo
  • CollaboratorsAdriana AkersShanika HettigeDavid IsaakOz JohnsonHaley Way JordahlEllen LoheLily Anne Perkins-HighDavid Vega-BarachowitzGino AbreraDennis DiazJoana DungcaGodesil LejardeDylan MelgazoGlenn OrbonBrian SabidoRichie TumambingAnnlouise Genevieve M. CastroFrancis Edison A. CorpuzRyan JamesNicholai L. DizonNicasio B. Jr. EspinaAngelica N. FranciscoJosue O. MirabiteThess Khaz S. Raza


With the notable uptick of natural disasters impacting densely-populated areas around the globe, attention to the subject of urban resilience has increased among ecologists, engineers, economists, social scientists, and designers. But despite this extraordinary cross-disciplinary interest in a single subject, the resilience discourse has largely remained siloed by discipline. With Metro Manila as a backdrop, this essay addresses gaps in resilience literature and practice by introducing a balanced approach to human, natural, and spatial resilience through socio-ecological urban design. This perspective builds on concepts of resilience that come from both ecology and social science perspectives, and positions urban design (which itself is rooted in the synthesis of architecture, planning, and landscape architecture) as uniquely situated for integrating and operationalizing them. Harvard University. (1956, April 9~10). 1st Urban Design Conference Proceedings. Harvard University Archive, Cambridge, MA.

Responding to stakeholder interviews and vulnerabilities assessments, our research team developed and illustrated three principles of urban resilience (“resilient imaginaries”) that operate across scales, time, and disciplinary boundaries. While the principles are contextually specific, they are intended to be broadly applicable to achieving more socially, ecologically, spatially, and equitably resilient cities. Principles are as follows:

  • Ecological environmental principle: Design with nature, not against it;
  • Socio-economic principle: Support a shared economy;
  • Morphological principle: Break down development silos.

Exploring the intersectionality of urban resilience and urban design presents an opportunity to intellectually and operationally advance both, extending the concept of urban resilience from one of observation to one of action and expanding the disciplinary domain of urban design from one based primarily in architecture to one that balances considerations for human, natural, and spatial systems. Designing with nature, not against it; breaking down development silos; and supporting the socio-economic integration of growing and increasingly vulnerable urban populations, can reduce vulnerability, increase resilience, and ultimately result in new and exciting forms of urbanity.

Informal settlements negotiate the edges between water and land

Dennis Diaz

Environmental zoning and land use, Manila

Ellen Lowe

Intelligent Infrastructure: addressing permanent impermanence

Oz Johnson

Integrated economies and planned informality

David Isaak and Adrianna Akers

Towards a future vernacular

David Vega-Barachowitz and Shanika Hettige