Claudiu Forgaci, assistant professor or urban design, has received one of the Special Mentions of The Third Manuel de Solà-Morales European Prize 2021 for doctoral research in the field of urbanism with his thesis on Integrated Urban River Corridors.
Forgaci’s thesis focused on Urban River Corridors (URCs) as spaces of social-ecological integration par excellence—that is, spaces where the interaction between the urban systems (carrying the ‘social-’) and the river system (carrying the ‘-ecological’) is (potentially) the most intense. The general hypothesis was that with an integrated spatial understanding, planning and design of rivers and the urban fabric surrounding them, cities could become more resilient, not just to flood-related disturbances, but to general chronic stresses as well. Hence, the thesis addressed a number of spatial problems arising from the loss of synergy between the natural dynamics of rivers and the spatial configuration and composition of urban areas that they cross, namely: the relationship between fluvial geomorphology and urban morphology weakened by river-taming operations; the physical barrier caused by riverside vehicular traffic; the latent flood risk built up through resistance-based flood-protection measures; the diminished capacity of urban rivers to provide ecosystem services; and the reduced scalar, (and implicitly) social and ecological complexity of urban rivers after rationalisation.
Drawing on theories of social-ecological resilience and urban form resilience, on conceptual and analytical tools from the fields of spatial morphology and landscape ecology, and on explorations through urban river design projects, the thesis departed from the research question
“How can social-ecological integration be spatially defined, assessed and designed in Urban River Corridors?”