As an interdependent global society enters an era of unprecedented change, resulting
from unforeseen natural and social disasters and vulnerabilities, the resilience of global
cities to survive is a pressing concern. This dissertation aims to elucidate the application of
resilience thinking by showing how ecological resilience concepts can translate into urban
systems, using the capital of South Africa, Tshwane, as the exploration ground. Resilience
simultaneously embodies the capacity of urban systems to bounce back, adapt or
transform. Translating these concepts into a holistic urban resilience approach answers
three questions: a) What is resilience theory? b) What are the core concepts of ecological
resilience theory? and c) How might these concepts translate to cities?
The dissertation is structured in three parts; to establish the basis of resilience thinking,
explore ecological resilience concepts in an urban system and lastly, assimilate findings into
an urban resilience approach. Qualitative along with historical-comparative research
methods, guided literature studies, and interdisciplinary research designs generated the
finding that ecological resilience concepts translate well into the urban system, but that
urban resilience is not a panacea for the ills of the urban environment.
An urban resilience approach could comprise a) evolutionary or adaptive urban resilience
involving an ongoing study and observation of the city system; and b) transformative urban
resilience, that actively changes systems that reflect stronger or weaker resilience, so as to
purposefully regenerate or collapse? them. This requires responsible and holistic conduct.
Urban resilience thinking implies an appreciation for the complexity that underlies life, and
modesty about ambitions for managing it.