Special Issue "Framing Resilient Cities: Water and Public Spaces to Face Climate Change"

A special issue of Land (ISSN 2073-445X). This special issue belongs to the section "Urban Contexts and Urban-Rural Interactions".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2022.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Sandra Ricart
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Interuniversity Institute of Geography, University of Alicante, 03690 Alicante, Spain
Interests: water governance; socioecological systems; nonconventional water resources; climate change adaptation
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Carlo Berizzi
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture, University of Pavia, 27100 Pavia, Italy
Interests: urban transformation and regeneration; landscaping; public space; urban culture
Prof. Dr. David Saurí
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Geography Department, Autonomous University of Barcelona, 08193 Barcelona, Spain
Interests: water-related attitudes; water conservation; nonconventional water resources; urban ecology; urban sprawl

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Water from the sky, water from the ground: water has always been a fundamental resource of life and cities. Water can represent a threat and an opportunity for ensuring urban resilience while promoting the regenera­tion of the city through new public spaces activated by this resource. By combining the built environment and nature to face climate change impacts (e.g., flooding and water scarcity), public space is today more than ever a subject of debate and deep cultural and architectural reflection. In a historical mo­ment in which it is necessary to redefine the role of the contemporary city, policies at different scales are increasin­gly pushing toward the development of ecological and human-oriented cities. This is an urgent issue: cities today must know how to combine artifice and nature. Public space as a place for the community can represent the starting point for orienting sustainable development within the cities.
There is an urgent need to change the way we plan and construct cities in the changing climate focusing on water and public spaces. Unsustainable urban development—built-up floodplains, progressive surface sealing, small amounts of green space or urban sprawl encroaching on wildfire- and landslide-prone areas—magnifies the impacts of climate‑related hazards. Integration of gray and blue-green infrastructures for sponge cities could be the first step toward ensuring urban resilience.
For this Special Issue, we are interested in contributions that investigate and reflect the importance of water inside contemporary cities to face climate change through either empirical research or conceptual/theoretical works, examining any key processes. Contributions at the intersection of geography, political ecology, architecture, and urbanism are especially welcome, but contributions from other human–environment fields at the forefront pf water and public space in the climate change context are also highly welcome. Regional and scalar diversity in contributions is also desired.

Prof. Dr. Sandra Ricart
Prof. Dr. Carlo Berizzi
Prof. Dr. David Saurí
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Land is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • gray infrastructure
  • Nature-Based Solutions
  • climate change adaptation
  • urban resilience
  • urban planning
  • urban design
  • water management
  • water scarcity
  • flooding
  • human-oriented cities
  • public spaces
  • landscaping

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Integrating the social, the political, and the environmental in the design of urban public space: Challenges and opportunities under a changing climate
Authors: Sandra Ricart; Carlo Berizzi; David Saurí
Affiliation: University of Alicante; University of Pavia; Autonomous University of Barcelona
Abstract: Climate change and other environmental issues are not the only challenges that urban areas must confront in the future. Very pressing social issues are on the agenda including aging, poverty, public services access, spatial inequities, decaying infrastructures, etc. On the one hand, cities are becoming increasingly hazardous because of extreme natural events related to climate change, especially to water excess or scarcity (e.g., the triad of floods, droughts, and heatwaves). On the other hand, inequality and polarization associated with sociospatial segregation processes resulting from intersecting issues such as origin, age, income, gender, etc. are also increasing and can be maximized by climate change. However, interactions between the two challenges remain insufficiently acknowledged and explored although humans and nature are inextricably linked as proved in coupled human-nature systems. In this systematic literature review combined with bibliometrics, we will seek literature attempting to integrate social, political, and environmental issues in urban public space design. In particular, we will highlight contributions focusing on the challenges faced by cities in the coming decades, putting nature-based solutions and water resources at the core of the analysis. We will do so by studying new approaches in the design and management of the urban water cycle under the principle of circularity and particularly in the transition from hard to soft approaches in urban drainage. We will also attempt to identify possible common threads to advance in this integration such as relational design of new public space in cities and how this can affect the social side of urban environments. The ambition is to analyze urban environment as a new scenario in which sustainability and resilience can go hand in hand with the architectural and urban projection. Issues of green gentrification somehow reflect mismatches and contradictions between a healthy and resilient urban environment and the living conditions of citizens that may suffer paradoxically from improved environmental conditions which derive from a reductionist interpretation of sustainability. Likewise, in environmental and climate change literature, the concept of urban resilience is often used acritically missing the ambiguity with which deals with social and political differences. Our contribution will be inspired by architects, planners, geographers, and social and environmental scientists that attempt to design public city apace according to relational values in which the social, the political, and the environmental join forces for safe, just, and sustainable cities.

Title: To be, to do, to share: The triple-loop of water governance in rural-urban matrices to improve urban resilience. Testing the Benidorm’ experience, Spain
Authors: Sandra Ricart; Antonio M. Rico-Amorós
Affiliation: Water and Territory research group, Interuniversity Institute of Geography, University of Alicante, 03690 San Vicente del Raspeig, Alicante, Spain; Environmental Intelligence for Global Change Lab, Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering, Politecnico di Milano, 20133 Milan, Italy; Department of Regional Geographic Analysis and Physical Geography, University of Alicante, 03690 San Vicente del Raspeig, Alicante, Spain.
Abstract: Coexistence between agricultural activity and urban-tourism growth requires sophisticated water supply and management systems, especially in semi-arid regions impacted by climate change. Additionally, cooperation and mutual understanding among stakeholders is needed to reduce water conflicts and disputes. The urban-rural matrix of the Marina Baja county (South-Eastern Spain) is characterized by inland irrigation and coastal tourism development, being Benidorm the most important mass tourism resort of Mediterranean Spain. As both water users coexist in time and space, an integrated water supply and management system based on the shared use of water infrastructures and water exchange were established to ensure Benidorm’ urban water resilience. This contribution aims to deepen key stakeholders’ narratives, roles, and interactions to highlight 1) water management driving-factors, 2) agreements (in)capacity and asymmetrical power relationships, and 3) Benidorm’ experience and potential as sponge city. Data was collected from semi-structured interviews and questionnaires to 19 key stakeholders including government, council, and municipalities; river basin authority and water consortium; irrigation communities and union farms; tourism sector association; and environmental defenders. Water governance will be checked by applying an updated Hydrosocial Cycle approach consisting on six issues characterizing stakeholders’ behavior: representativeness and recognition (to be), relevance and performance (to do), and knowledge and collaboration (to share). Exchanged and contrasted stakeholders’ attitudes can be used to identify weaknesses on water management and governance protocols, while learnings from stakeholders’ experiences can exemplify desirable transition and transformation towards sustainable and resilient rural-urban matrices.

Title: Urban expansion and the loss of ecosystem services in the city of Salvador, Bahia-Brazil: Water resource degradation on the perspective of climate change
Authors: Ricardo Augusto Souza Machado; Anderson Gomes de Oliveira; Rubén Camilo Lois Gonzalez
Affiliation: State University of Feira de Santana / Brazil; Superintendence of Economic and Social Studies of Bahia / Brazil; University of Santiago de Compostela / Spain
Abstract: The city of Salvador has witnessed rapid population growth in the last five decades, going from just over 250,000 inhabitants in 1950 to about 2.9 million in 2021, which was decisive for the establishment of a series of environmental problems, as a result of the low control of land use and occupation and reduced vegetation cover. Among the negative consequences of this process, there is the degradation of urban reservoirs, which despite being located in an area with annual rainfall in the order of 2,200 mm do not currently present quality for human consumption. Although the city has had extremely modern urban plans in this period, aimed at protecting the vegetation and its ecological functions, there was no commitment from the municipal government to achieve them. Inspection, a crucial step for the success of any territorial planning project, has always been fragile and ineffective. Currently, the loss of this ecosystem service forces the captation of water in other municipalities, including from sources located in semi-arid environments and subject to desertification, highly vulnerable to climate change. In this context, this article will address the causes and consequences of the degradation of surface water resources in the city of Salvador, considering the current climate change projections for the northeast region of Brazil, quantifying the loss of ecosystem services related to water resources, with regard about freshwater consumption for people and estimates of economic damage to the city in the coming decades.

Title: Nature-based solutions to hydro-climatic risks. Impacts of perceptions and inertia on community and institutional responses in Seville (Spain)
Authors: Ángela Lara García, Leandro del Moral Ituarte
Affiliation: Department of Human Geography, University of Seville, Spain
Abstract: Nature-based solutions (NBS) are currently a priority of international institutions (UN, EU) to improve urban resilience to hydro-climatic risks. However, there is often inertia and resistance to these strategies from responsible institutions such as river basin authorities or local governments. This article identifies historical and recent institutional practices related to grey infrastructures in Seville. Against that, the paper analyses experiences of the citizens' demands for implementation of green infrastructures and the naturalization, in some cases directly related to hydro-climatic risks. The article is located in the theoretical framework of water-sensitive cities transition, which shows that the barriers against to these new perspectives are of a socio-institutional rather than technological nature. The article identifies the factors that hinder or trigger the processes of change, providing the results of a case with a long tradition in hydro-climatic disaster management. It’s based on the work of the RESCITIES project team ("The political ecology of urban resilience in the face of hydroclimatic phenomena in Spain", 2018-2022), that included in-depth review of risk planning, 22 semi-structured interviews, participant observation of urban planning processes, as well as analyses of discourses and practices of citizen movements. The results, that were tested in a workshop, show that the construction of shared visions clashes with conflicting perceptions about strengths and weaknesses dealing with risks; contradictions between institutional discourses and practices; and operational limitations of public participation processes.

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