Kathryn Firth

Scales of Resilience: From Doorknob to District

We live in a rapidly urbanizing world which is undergoing extensive change that is impacting on every part of our lives. Our cities are characterized globally by a growing population that is older, more ethnically and socially diverse.  Changes in technology are transforming the way we communicate and relate, as well as the way we manage resources, shop and travel. Changes in technology are also changing the way, where and when we work.  Our ecological systems and climate are changing. 

Resiliency (rəˈzilyəns):

1.       the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
2.       the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

Our building typologies and urban morphologies need to be responsive to these changes if we are to create physically and socially resilient cities. 

This talk will focus on projects associated with the London Olympic Legacy and other urban initiatives that are exploring how intensification, diversification and understanding local strengths can begin to accommodate growth while delivering resilient places.

Kathryn Firth

NBBJ Urban Environments / Harvard GSD

Kathryn Firth, an urban designer with more than 25 years of international public- and private-sector experience, oversees NBBJ’s Urban Environments practice in Boston. Originally from Toronto, Kathryn spent 20 years in London, where she worked as a private consultant and as chief of design at the London Legacy Development Corporation, directing the transformation of the 2012 Olympic Games site into a piece of city.

Kathryn has led international master planning and urban regeneration projects, working both in sensitive heritage contexts such as Covent Garden and on former industrial sites in complex urban environments, including Le Parc des Portes de Paris and Meridian Water in northeast London. Her ongoing research interests include the spatial and social dynamics of main streets, the New London Vernacular, urban density and neighborhood perception, and investigations into typologies and morphologies that support intensification and urban growth.

Kathryn holds a Masters of Architecture in Urban Design from Harvard's Graduate School of Design. She ran the MSc City Design and Social Science at the London School of Economic Cities Programme for six years, and is an external examiner at the Architectural Association, London. She is currently a Design Critic in Urban Planning and Design at the GSD.