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Funded PhD Opportunity

The role of resilient design in urban masterplanning.

Subject: Architecture, Built Environment and Planning


The ever-increasing prevalence and scale of hazardous events represents a growing concern for urban planners. These hazardous events have led to escalating property, infrastructure and economic losses. Set against a backdrop of increasing complexity, uncertainty and change within cities, this research seeks to advance knowledge around the capacity of dynamic and flexible urban environments to cope with disturbances.

Recent research in the field of resilient design suggests that embedding resilience principles within masterplanning processes can help to reduce the uncertainty of 21st century realities on our built environment. This research does not see resilience as a panacea to these challenges, however, it seeks to advance knowledge on the potential for resilient design strategies to go beyond the traditional resistance approach to uncertainty and instead embrace a new resilient planning paradigm founded on flexibility and adaptability. To assist this process of adaptive change, the research seeks to understand the key role resilient design can play in meaningfully engaging with the impact of hazardous events.

The research aims to build an evidence base of how resilient design principles can be practically translated into urban design strategies. A misunderstanding of the value of design in resilient urban planning, coupled with a disconnect between design and policy, are argued to be the key impediments to the design of a resilient built environment. Improved understanding and communication of the transformative potential in resilient design, and the conditions under which it can operate, would help to bridge the gap between resilient design and policy in the context of today’s complex city planning.

In this regard, the study will present research that seeks to enhance the resilient capacity of cities through the identification of resilient masterplanning strategies and the conditions in which they operate.

This research is set against a backdrop of the 100 Resilient Cities network, in which Belfast is an active participant. Positioned at a land/water interface, the city is subject to environmental, social and economic adversity. Belfast city has the potential to serve as a test-bed for local level research. It is anticipated that resilient design principles garnered locally can be used as a foundation to inform international, empirical research.

The work will involve three key research themes

(1) A state of the art review of the resilience concept, particularly in the field of urban design;

(2) An investigation into the potential symbiosis between resilient design and urban design; and

(3) An exploration of the extent to which resilient design is reflected within existing urban design strategies.

Ultimately, the research seeks to advance knowledge in the field of resilient design. In particular, the aim is to develop a new resilient masterplanning paradigm which can help shape practical policy outcomes, thus enabling cities to be adaptable, sustainable and fit for purpose in the face of adversity.

Essential criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)
  • Clearly defined research proposal detailing background, research questions, aims and methodology


    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training studentship grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to:

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Monday 10 June 2019

Interview Date
19 June 2019


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Jordanstown campus

Jordanstown campus
The largest of Ulster's campuses

Contact supervisor

Dr Karen Davison

Other supervisors

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