Researching Urban Resilience & Planning

Researching Resilient Cities in Metro Vancouver

Summary Post  by Robin Chang

Deutsche Zusammenfassung ist hier verfügbar.

From March 6th to 20th, members from F01 Project Resilient Cities: Risks, repercussions and Realities for Resilience Planning in Metro Vancouver participated in a two-week excursion and two-day workshop involving both academic and cultural exchange with Canadian experts and also students. Through this experience, participants developed insights into Canadian approaches to resilience, understood the diverse range of perspectives, and also collected information relevant to their advanced bachelor research.

In collaboration with partners from Simon Fraser University (SFU), the project participants co-organized an international workshop on Urban Climate Resilience that facilitated further mutual development of German and Canadian learning, language and cultures. This experience enriched the project participants experiences as a capstone project integrating pod-wise elearning set up between Canadian and German students since January 2017. Participants in the workshop included scholars and students from SFU and University of British Columbia (UBC), and professionals and representatives from the municipalities of Vancouver, Surrey and Richmond.

Along with the preparation for the workshop, the excursion provided students the opportunity to test and apply knowledge researched in Germany prior to the trip. Testing and application of concepts took form as site visits, projects tours, and expert interviews. There is no doubt, however, that the direct contact with local actors will continue to influence the students’ understanding for thinking and attitudes towards the topic of resilience in the Canadian context.

Through the Canadian experience, the project group not only learned much about applied research, but also the fundamental differences between German and Canadian planning and cultural approaches. For this group, the lessons were both diverse, at times challenging, but ultimately a rewarding growth experience. Finally, all the participants learned not only about a new culture, but also to question and more astutely perceive their own culture through new eyes.

Partnership with Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) and SFU

In addition to workshop with other scholars and students for the project and workshop, Nadine Maegdefrau from IRPUD and myself were invited by Nastenka Calle to speak for the first PICS lecture series on resilience. This exciting opportunity allowed us to share TU Dortmund research with an audience of over 50 people in Vancouver. For those interested in viewing the event video, click here. During this event, Germans and Canadians questioned how cities can familiarize themselves with urban resilience and engaged in discussion on transferable lessons. The public lecture also served as a programmatic addition to the international workshop in Vancouver. For this opportunity and also PICS’ support of our workshop along with the SFU Faculty of Art and Social Sciences, we are extremely grateful!

To end, we have a few participant comments reflecting on their learning:

“Durch den Aufenthalt in Kanada mit meinem Projekt habe ich gelernt wie man vor Ort forschen kann, Interviews vorbereitet und durchführt, sowie Diskussionen mit Einheimischen über das Thema Resilienz führt. Außerdem denke ich, dass die Exkursion alle Gruppenmitglieder näher zusammengebracht hat und wir im kommenden Semester nun noch besser zusammenarbeiten können.” – Lena Aumüller

“In my opinion the excursion to Metro Vancouver and the correspondence and collaboration with the students from the Simon Fraser University was very rewarding for my personal learning experience. I had a great time at the workshop and during the whole excursion exchanging information with different people, be it students or experts. Vancouver is anexciting destination with many different facets, be it the rush of Downtown or the quiet of Stanley Park and it would of course be worth a second visit.” – Tobias Leicht

“The support of PICS was a huge benefit for both of our workshop days. After listening to many speakers and meeting students, academics and professionals on the first day we were able to conclude the day with a social dinner at an amazing restaurant. Not only the fact that we were invited to dinner by PICS was great, but also having the opportunity to exchange thoughts and ideas on urban resilience, climate change, urban planning and many more topics were very useful. The chats with Nastenka Calle Delago were a good opportunity to ask questions and discuss the previous day. On day two it was very helpful to have Nastenka as the moderator for our expert panel. Listening to the discussion of academics gave us many more ideas for our future research work and can easily be connected to our recent research. After two days of gaining knowledge, networking and discussing on the topic of resilience this workshop really gave us students an insight into the real-life research work and will definitely help us all for future projects.” – Julia Gardemann

Active learning about watershed management in Metro Vancouver with Mount Seymour Parks and Metro Vancouver representatives.

Social media handles and real time updates during our Vancouver workshop.

‘Resilience’ definition mapping – a bit of a messy job.

Not only did PICS invite Nadine and I to speak as a part of their lecture series, they participated and sponsored both panels and social activities in our first comparative international workshop on resilience. Many thanks for the generosity and support from Nastenka Calle on behalf of PICS and Meg Holden on behalf of the SFU Faculty of Art and Social Sciences.

The skies did clear up for us once in a while. March is not the sunniest month to visit Metro Vancouver, but we did get to see and learn much about the realities for urban climate resilience there.

Our SFU colleague, Stephan Nieweler generously put together a ‘Transit Oriented Communities’ tour for us. Not only did we get to ride and test out public transportation, we had the chance to meet and chat with the authorities as well.

Urban climate resilience isn’t just a public endeavour. Private developers are also challenged with both spatial and social expectations that consider both resilience and quality of life. Did I mention we got to see and learn a lot?

Our municipal partners from the City of Surrey were super welcoming and wonderful hosts for the first day of our workshop. Often, it’s hard to conceptualize urban development issues without actually visiting the sites to see the scale or physical impacts. Thanks again to the City of Surrey, City of Richmond, and City of Vancouver for their cooperation!


The opportunity to travel and work in Metro Vancouver would not have been possible without the cooperation and support of many people. Naturally, we would like to thank all the institutions and individuals (in alphabetical order) who made our learning experience and event possible:

Carrie Baron (City of Surrey), Deb Harford (Simon Fraser University), Halena Seiferling (Simon Fraser University), Jada Basi (CitySpaces), Jeff Fisher (Urban Development Institute), Joanne Curry (Simon Fraser University), Keven Hanna from (UBC-Okanagan), Leslie King (Royal Roads University), Lloyd Bie (The City of Richmond), Maged Senbel (University of British Columbia), Maggie Baynham (The City of Surrey), Mareike Kroll (University of Cologne), Meg Holden (Simon Fraser University), Nastenka Calle from (Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions), Norma Miller (Real Estate Association), Peter Whitelaw (MODUS Planning), Stephan Nieweler (Simon Fraser University), Stephan Sheppard (University of British Columbia), Stephanie Chang (University of British Columbia), Steve Litke (Fraser Basin Council), Tamsin Lyle (Ebbwater Consulting & The City of Vancouver), and naturally the TU Dortmund/SFU/UBC students invovled!