German Chancellor Fellowship on Climate Resilience through Public Spaces at DIE

Photo: study on the opportunities that public spaces provide for enhancing community-scale resilience to the climate crisis


German Chancellor Fellow Katherine Peinhardt has been hosted by the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) to undertake a study on the opportunities that public spaces provide for enhancing community-scale resilience to the climate crisis.

Climate adaptation is growing as a formalised community of practice, but the emphasis remains on physical rather than social resilience — all too much adaptation work remains limited to things like hardscapes and sea walls instead of vibrant parks that enhance social infrastructure. But, innovators like the City of Rotterdam see the connection between social cohesion and resilience, and the importance of creating more spaces where people can gather and build on their sense of connection to their neighbours. Rotterdam has incorporated public spaces into their climate adaptation strategies, and with its Waterplein Benthemplein, the City has piloted a concept called a “water square.” The square combines physical and social resilience in that it serves multiple functions: absorbing excess stormwater while also providing space for socialising, relaxing, or even skateboarding.


This case is used as a paradigmatic example for climate adaptation through the lens of “placemaking,” and outlines the policy context for Rotterdam, with regard to public spaces, climate adaptation, and long-standing practices around water management. It continues with an observational analysis of Waterplein Benthemplein to explore how Rotterdam is layering both physical and social resilience together, through cutting-edge approaches to urban design and public space planning and management. The research project by Katherine Peinhardt will guide the emerging paradigm around a place-led approach to climate adaptation; one that goes beyond the physical to take social resilience into account.


Katherine Peinhardt has presented her findings during a panel at Art of City Building 2020. They will also be published within DIE’s publication series “Discussion Paper”. Katherine Peinhardt also featured her insight during a TEDx Talk , which can be watched here:



The German Chancellor Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation offers young prospective leaders from the USA, the Russian Federation, the People’s Republic of China, Brazil or India the opportunity to implement their own project. It helps to network with international future leaders in Germany to find new answers to the global issues of our time. Each fellow is hosted by a German institution.