Published: 14 April 2021

Natural Urban Resilience

Nicole Barons PhD thesis on "Understanding general urban resilience
through Addis Ababa’s inner city" is online.



Image of the published books

We are happy to announce that the PhD thesis work of one of our associate members, Dr. Ing. Nicole Baron, is now published with the title NATURAL URBAN RESILIENCE: Understanding general urban resilience
through Addis Ababa’s inner city.

The publication is under the Creative Commons License CC BY 4.0. The abstract can be read below.

The publication is available online with this link


This dissertation describes the urban actors and spatial practices that contribute to natural urban resilience in Addis Ababa’s inner city. Natural urban resilience is a non-strategical and bottom-up, everyday form of general urban resilience – an urban system’s ability to maintain its essential characteristics under any change.

This study gains significance by exposing conceptual gaps in the current understanding of general urban resilience and highlighting its unconvincing applicability to African cities. This study attains further relevance by highlighting the danger of the ongoing large-scale redevelopment of the inner city. The inner city has naturally formed, and its urban memory, spaces, and social cohesion contribute to its primarily low-income population’s resilience. This thesis argues that the inner city’s demolition poses an incalculable risk of maladaptation to future stresses and shocks for Addis Ababa. The city needs a balanced urban discourse that highlights the inner city’s qualities and suggests feasible urban transformation measures. “Natural Urban Resilience” contributes an empirical study to the debate by identifying those aspects of the inner city that contribute to general resilience and identifies feasible action areas.

This study develops a qualitative research design for a single case study in Addis Ababa. The data is obtained through expert interviews, interviews with residents, and the analysis of street scene photos, which are abstracted using Grounded theory. That way, this thesis provides first-time knowledge about who and what generates urban resilience in the inner city of Addis Ababa and how. Furthermore, the study complements existing theories on general urban resilience. It provides a detailed understanding of the change mechanisms in resilience, of which it identifies four: adaptation, upgrading, mitigation, and resistance. It also adapts the adaptive cycle, a widely used concept in resilience thinking, conceptually for urban environments. The study concludes that the inner city’s continued redevelopment poses an incalculable threat to the entire city. Therefore, “Natural urban resilience” recommends carefully weighing any intervention in the inner city to promote Addis Ababa’s overall resilience. This dissertation proposes a pattern language for natural urban resilience to support these efforts and to translate the model of natural urban resilience into practice.

Keywords: Urban studies, Urban resilience, Built environment, Urban assemblage, Co-production, Self-organization, Adaptive cycle, Resistance, Qualitative social research, Grounded theory, Africa