On July 14, 2016, a ram truck terrorist attack takes place in Nice (France), on the Promenade des Anglais. It killed 86 people and injured 458. On December 19, 2016, the Christmas market at Breitscheidplatz in Berlin (Germany) is targeted with the same kind of vehicle, while on December 11, 2018, in Strasbourg (France), a gun attack took place at the Christkindelsmärik , killing five people and injuring eleven others. As a result of these events, access to public spaces in large European cities has been limited and the anti-waterhammer concrete blocks have been in full bloom.

On September 26, 2019, a fire broke out in Rouen (France), at the Lubrizol factory and warehouses of Normandie Logistique. Lubrizol is a Seveso-classified high threshold (“high risk”) chemical products factory. The fire generates a plume of black smoke that reaches more than 20 km. Fortunately, there were no fatalities or injuries. As part of the management of the accident, various measures were taken to protect the population (containment, school closures, etc.). The site is adjacent to the Flaubert eco-neighborhood project, the city’s flagship urban project, which has now been put back on the agenda.

On August 4, 2020, two explosions in the port of Beirut (Lebanon) followed one another, the second (2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate) generating colossal damage and a terrible human toll: 204 dead, more than 6,500 injured, and nine missing. The port district and part of the historic center have to be rebuilt.

On October 2, 2020, floods linked to exceptionally bad weather devastated the valleys of the Vésubie and Roya rivers in the hinterland of Nice (France). Colossal work is needed to rebuild roads, bridges, water and electricity networks, at an estimated cost of at least one billion euros. A Prefect in charge of reconstruction has been appointed.

In spring 2020, the corona virus pandemic involved measures to contain and reorganize the functioning of cities around the world, particularly in the field of transportation. Bicycle paths have been laid out in an emergency to encourage the use of active modes of transport and avoid the influx of motor vehicles with drivers alone.

This inventory of these brutal crises that recently have affected cities could be extended to include the fire in old Lisbon on August 25, 1988, and the September 11, 2001 attack in New York City, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans at the end of August 2005 or storm Xynthia at the end of February 2010, the earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010 or the one in Mexico City in 1985, the tsunami on the Pacific coast of Tōhoku, in Japan, on March 11, 2011, … Each time, the capacity of resilience of the cities, the territories and the societies have been questioned. What kind of reconstruction is needed and possible, according to what urban planning, and for what objectives?

But other types of crises can affect peoples, as following wars or migratory movements. 

Thus, the Palestinian refugee camps established after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War are still there. What was supposed to be only temporary has been transformed into classic urban neighborhoods, but characterized by great poverty and overpopulation.

Other camps have multiplied over the course of the world’s misfortunes, in Rwanda, Iraq, Malawi and elsewhere, camps whose objective is to ensure the basic needs of victims of wars, disasters or migrants in waiting: food, hygiene, security… with the need to regain a social structure.

Despite the fact that the Calais jungle was evacuated several times from its beginnings in 2002, it still counted up to 3,000 people waiting for passage to England or their Dublin procedure in 2015. In Paris, migrant camps have been set up on a recurring basis in the northern districts.

In short, the state of crisis is becoming a chronic situation in cities and territories : because of industrial risks already present that are becoming more acute at a given time, a particular climatic, morphological or seismic configuration, or a specific geopolitical situation. Faced with these multifaceted crises, what tools do institutional actors have at their disposal to manage them? How are they implemented? To respond to what urgency? The social emergency? Economic? The reconstruction of buildings?

What is the capacity of cities to provide responses in the event of aa violent event linked to the operation of an industrial site (explosion, fire, etc.)?What capacity to provide responses to sudden crises associated with climatic events or “natural” risks? And further more, what is the capacity of urban planning to anticipate crises?

Is it possible to evaluate the effectiveness of upstream procedures, those aimed at protecting against what could be foreseen (industrial or “natural” risks)?

Is the notion of “tactical” urbanism, mobilized during the coronavirus pandemic as an emergency response to this crisis, a relevant approach? If the established ways of doing things in the city are being challenged, what new models are emerging? Faced with the risk of terrorism, should a systematical security response be integrated into urban planning, particularly with regard to public spaces? Faced with the question of migration, can there be solidarity proposals that allow for a dignified reception?

Facing the climate change issue, the new challenges of globalization and geopolitical issues, the questions raised by the multiplication of local crises of all kinds, which are in essence always part of a city, are a challenge for urban planners. What answers can they provide a priori in the context of prevention and a posteriori in the face of emergency situations? How can an increasingly uncertain world shape new practices?

The RIURBA proposes to open up this new field of reflection, not yet well marked out, but of which everyone, citizens, elected officials, urban planning actors, researchers, are aware that it can no longer be ignored. Crisis urban planning today requires cross-fertilization of thinking thanks to the contributions of researchers and practitioners confronted with this issue.

The texts, in accordance with the instructions given to the authors, are expected by Monday, May 31, 2021.