Tacloban, January 30 2016 — It was the question posed to Tacloban City officials by an international team of urban planners during a recent mission organized by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).

Many would comment that the question is timely, considering the city is still undergoing reconstruction following the devastation wrought by Typhoon Yolanda (known internationally as Haiyan). Nonetheless, the city continues to experience sustained urban growth and create both challenges and opportunities for its residents and the rest of the region.

The UN-Habitat mission was part of Urban Lab – a one-year global project to support the growth of inclusive, safe, sustainable and resilient cities. Aside from key discussions with city officials and field visits, a planning charrette was held where the Urban Lab team shared four models of city growth and development (pictured below):

Core: Developing the city’s downtown and historic core

Linear: Encouraging growth around corridors along the highways and the coastline

Patchwork: Connecting current patchwork of built-up areas and their relations to the open spaces in between them

New Town: Nurturing a core area in a new district of the city

How should cities grow models

To help operationalize each model, the team asked city representatives and workshop participants to consider these questions:

  • How does the model build resilience and reduce risk?
  • How does the model achieve fair and inclusive growth?
  • How does the model define a growth engine for the city’s future?
  • How does the model promote an infrastructure system that supports various scales?
  • How does the model fit within an actionable time frame?

The design charrette enabled city representatives and key stakeholders to reflect on the best planning model for the city.

After considerable discussion and reflection on the local realities, the participants came to an emerging consensus – the city could adopt a hybrid approach. This approach, while combining useful elements of all four models, would be based on many considerations, including (but not limited to) existing elements of the urban landscape, proposed projects that when implemented will influence the direction and extent of the growth, as well as the phases of growth based on key scenarios. The approach also considered the need to balance the core historic area with a proposed urban expansion in the north, while at the same time fostering green space and transport corridors in the mid-section of the city.

The participants also reflected on issues of inclusivity. It was emphasized that lower income housing in the south is required to reduce displacement. On the other hand, housing schemes for people of various economic classes should be encouraged in the north to avoid stigmatization and encourage everyday interaction of people from different economic backgrounds. Furthermore, such inclusivity will also be reflected in the network of public spaces and streets that should permeate each settlement in the northern district.

The approach discussed at the charrette will feed into the reformulation of the city’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP). Initial deliberations emphasized the importance of providing both narrative and illustrative inputs into the CLUP process.


During the week-long mission, the UN-Habitat team conducted field visits to the east coast, downtown, midsection and northern districts of the city.

During the week-long mission, the UN-Habitat team conducted field visits to the east coast, downtown, midsection and northern districts of the city. The team also met with the City Mayor, as well as with members of the technical working group for the CLUP.

Reflecting on the discussions, Mayor Alfred Romualdez agreed that the city needs a tailor-fit plan that considers the local, regional and provincial complexities in ecology, population movement and economic development. He welcomed the continued technical inputs from the team as the city remains committed to the partnership with UN-Habitat that endures since the early onset of Haiyan.

The team also worked with city representatives to define the work plan of the year-long Urban Lab project in Tacloban City, and mapped out subsequent missions by the international team.

Urban Lab is directly related to the Achieving Sustainable Urban Development project currently being implemented by UN-Habitat Philippines in five cities (i.e., Iloilo, Silay, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga, and Butuan).

The Urban Lab team will provide technical advice, planning methodologies and creative urban designs through field missions and office work to inform both the proposed planned city extension and the ongoing review and formulation of the CLUP. A participatory and people-centered approach in the planning process will be promoted.


Participants of the design charrette held during the Urban Lab mission to Tacloban City.


Tacloban City 30 January 2016 – From now until the end of the year, UN-Habitat will be supporting Tacloban to become an inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable city. The overall objective of the one-year Urban Lab project in Tacloban City is to provide high level technical expertise in the design phase of a new urban development district in the northern part of the city. The activities will support the local government in creating inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable new neighbourhoods for Tacloban residents. Now at its early stage, the Urban Lab will do this by providing technical assistance in the development of the city’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP).

The Urban Lab team is made up of four international experts.

Christopher De Vries

ChristopherDeVriesChristopher de Vries is principal at Rademacher de Vries Architects (RDVA). Over the last ten years Christopher has been involved in various post-disaster redevelopment projects.

In 2007 Christopher started a research group at the Delft University of Technology that studied the long term effects of post-disaster shelter and urban planning. This work included projects in Venezuela, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Ghana, El Salvador and the Philippines, Sichuan and Haiti. In 2010 Christopher was part of a research group at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) into informal housing in the global South, of which the results were presented at the United Nations World Urban Forum. Following this work Christopher joined a research group at the Harvard GSD following the 2011 Tsunami in Japan.

The work involved assisting the local and provincial planning department in Miyagi in making schemes for a more resilient city that took tsunamis as an inevitable part of the local geographic conditions instead of assuming safety behind concrete walls. In 2012 Christopher became the project leader of the ZUS-MIT team for the rebuild by design competition in New York following Hurricane Sandy. The proposal was one of the winning projects and is currently being realized.

For the Mission in Tacloban City, Christopher hopes to bring these experiences into Urban Lab format and assist Tacloban Planning department in realising a more safe and resilient city for the future.

Marieke Kums

MariekeKumsMarieke Kums studied as a Fulbright scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston and at Delft University of Technology from which she received a Master of Science in Architecture degree cum laude.

In 2010 MAKS became a founding member of UNION3: an international research and design group focused on the problematic of renewal in European cities. UNION3 has done research and published widely on the topic of (urban) renewal in the Netherlands and abroad.

Since 2013 she is a member of the advisory board for the Creative Industries Fund NI. In 2014 Marieke joined the lectureship “Future Urban Regions” (FUR) which was initiated by the Dutch Ministry of Planning. FUR examines urban (eco) systems and innovative design resources for the existing city. From a changing notion of use of space it is working on the improvement of urban environmental, economic situation and/or socio-cultural participation.

Neville Mars

NevilleMarsNeville Mars is the principal of MARS Architects in Shanghai, a sustainable planning and architecture studio with over ten years of experience in Asia. MARS Architects have won national and international architecture competitions, including the winning bid for an office tower in Chongqing, the winning gaps between research and design, art and technology.

Mars is a lecturer and tutor at the China Academy of Art and PhD candidate at RMIT in the field of urban theory. He is a member of the BMW Guggenheim Lab, and fellow presenter at the TED global_INK conference. Mars is the author of the book “The Chinese Dream – a society under construction”. This 800 page tome proved to be a prophetic analysis of the correlation between city building and society building in China inspiring the theme of China’s twelfth Five Year Plan. Mars will publish his second book “Manifesto of Mistakes – urban solutions for the new world” in 2016. This comprehensive ecocity design manual fundamentally rethinks the principles of the planning discipline to arrive at a step-by-step strategy for integrating all scales of sustainable planning projects.

Harmen van de Wal

HermanVanDerWalHarmen van de Wal graduated with honourable mention in 1992 at de Technical University of Delft, Faculty of architecture. Between 1996 and 2000 he worked for Maxwan, and B+B landscape architects and planners. In April 2000 he founded Krill-Office for Resilient Cities and Architecture. Krill is engaged in three fields of work: architecture, research and urban design. The architectural work ranges from transformation to new build projects, from housing to offices and public facilities. Urban planning projects range from urban renewal to research on large urban landscapes, both in The Netherlands as in Asia. Krill has recently put together an international team to propose tools for desakota development in Indonesia, now being studied as a possible national Indonesian program, as well as for projects to alleviate slum areas with the use of social capital of the community.

The research is key to the development of Krill’s work. This is carried out in close collaboration with a number of universities, such as Technical University of Delft, on the impact of architectural spaces on social interaction, the Gajah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, on development tools for the green growth of peri-urban areas, and IHE-UNESCO on water related issues in the city of Bandung.

With Krill, Harmen van de Wal has won many prizes, and has been featured in numerous exhibitions, and publications. Next to the parallel to the work at Krill, Harmen van de Wal lectures on a regular base at universities and academies. He was part of the advisory board for the Creative Industries Fund NL between 2010 and 2013, and is now part of an advisory board to the Dutch embassy in Jakarta.

Supported by

The Urban Lab team is supported by UN-Habitat urban planning specialists, Thomas Stellmach and Rogier van den Berg from headquarters in Nairobi and the Philippines country office with David Garcia, Reinero Flores and Christopher Rollo. The team is one of many other Urban Lab teams globally who are working with cities on urban development.

View related articles:

How should a city grow?

UN-Habitat’s Urban Lab project begins in Tacloban City

For further information go to: http://unhabitat.org/urban-initiatives/initiatives-programmes/urban-planning-and-design-lab/