Urban Heat, Vulnerability, and the Public Realm: Lessons from Tel Aviv-Yafo and Implications for COVID-19 Recovery

  • Johanna Lovecchio Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
  • Grga Basic Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
  • Thaddeus Pawlowski Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
Keywords: Urban Planning and Design, Climate Adaptation, Community Engaged Design, Vulnerability Analysis



Climate change is leaving Tel Aviv-Yafo hotter and drier. A hotter climate means more energy to cool buildings, more people staying indoors or in cars, and vulnerable people becoming sick from heat exposure. In some neighborhoods, streets were designed to channel sea air through open boulevards while green spaces provide needed shade. But in other neighborhoods, the streets are dense, narrow, with limited vegetation or green spaces, and communities on the social margins typically have fewer resources to adapt. In the first part of this paper, we discuss the case of The Resilience Accelerator in Tel Aviv-Yafo, a program of the Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes which supports community-based and local government actions towards climate resilience project implementation with multi-disciplinary and sectoral engagements. This process engaged a spatial heat vulnerability analysis to prioritize areas of the city most physically exposed and socially sensitive to heat impacts. Then, it brought together stakeholders from across disciplines, sectors, and scales to design projects that mitigate heat impacts and also create a vibrant and accessible public realm in the Shapira neighborhood. Soon after the conclusion of the Accelerator, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, and decision-makers at all levels of government worldwide have faced unprecedented challenges in not only responding to the imminent public health crises, but also the compounding vulnerabilities and hazards related to climate risk in the most vulnerable communities. So, in the second part of this paper, we reflect on how the pandemic has shed new light on the intersections of risk and areas of future investigation to further unpack the role of the urban planner and designer in constructing and deconstructing oppression and vulnerability.


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