Urban Futures

Urban forms under different future scenarios
Urban forms under different future scenarios (source: Silvio Caputo)


This aim of this project was to develop a methodology to appraise the long-term performance of urban development, thus facilitating the design and delivery of truly resilient cities.

At present, the design and planning of building and cities is informed on a number of sustainability principles and solutions commonly regarded as best practice. However, the long-term attainment of the targets that such solutions and principles promise will depend on how the future unfolds. For example, current rating codes on which buildings are assessed in terms of energy and resource efficiency may deliver a building stock that will be regarded as inefficient if in the following years repercussions of climatic changes will impose tighter regulations for the built environment. So how can we design for the future?

The methodology developed by the project team is based on a set of future scenarios capturing plausible evolutions of the built environment in 2050 as well as a set of quantitative and qualitative indicators of the performance of disparate urban parameters (e.g. water consumption, energy use, air pollution, demographics, social cohesion, urban form, etc.). The evaluation of design option against scenarios and connected indicators allows the identification of vulnerable aspects of design options as well as reasons for such vulnerability. In turn, this allows the modification of such design options in order to ensure optimal long-term performance and resilience.

The research team (led by the University of Birmingham) comprised five UK universities. The project completed in 2012. One of the outputs was the book ‘Designing Resilient Cities: a guide to good practice’, published by BRE Press. An interactive tool based on the methodology is also available open access.

Key Details

  • RF: Dr Silvio Caputo
  • Funding: EPSRC
  • Status: Completed in 2012
  • Impact: The project has generated considerable impact through publications in scientific journals and professional magazines. More importantly, the methodology was trialled in collaboration with local authorities (e.g. Lancaster City Council, Coventry City Council, etc.) to strengthen their regeneration plans. A series of workshops was run with several professional organisations including RIBA and RTPI.

European Urban Gardens

Rooftop garden
Rooftop garden (source: Silvio Caputo)


The aim of this networking programme (www.urbanallotments.eu) is to develop a cross-European perspective of allotment gardens in four interconnected areas: planning, sociology, ecology and urban design. In doing so, the programme will trace the evolution of allotments and gardening practices and gain insights on the adaptability of current provisions to new types of users and emergent trends.

Urban agriculture is today an umbrella term which encompasses many practices of urban gardening and food growing. Such practices have been traditionally carried out and embodied by allotment gardens, which have strengthened the resilience of urban communities at critical times of recent history. Allotment sites can be found in many European countries in different shapes, uses and patterns of distribution across the urban fabric. Over the last decades, however, many of the allotment sites have been lost to urban development whereas there is now a surge in demand. In this context, how can cities make space for such higher demand? Are gardening practices compatible with the level of pollution, the lifestyle and the planning frameworks of European countries?

Within the wider programme, the School of Architecture is contributing to the development of an investigation on new types of allotment gardens across Europe. Case studies of pop-up gardens, mobile gardens, guerrilla gardening, rooftop gardens and more are collected and critically analysed for their potential to offer alternatives to conventional allotment sites and to regenerate urban derelict spaces, thus reshaping the urban landscape of the contemporary city.

A book documenting the network’s research will be published by Routledge in 2016 with a chapter entirely dedicated to the emergent types of allotment gardens.

Key Details

  • Chair of the Work Group on Urban Design: Dr Silvio Caputo
  • Funding: COST
  • Status: Due to end in 2016
  • Impact: The impact has already been substantial. Researchers meet every six months in one of the 27 countries composing the network. Local policy makers and associations have actively participated in each of the events (Lisbon, Riga, Nicosia, Dortmund, Poznan), exchanged knowledge and demonstrated great interest in the debate generated. The Action will submit papers for a special issue of Landscape and Urban Planning, thus generating further academic impact.