Research on Design and Legislation



The past few months our chair has been intensively working on a research concerning one of the biggest legislative changes in Dutch history. All the laws concerning the (built) environment, twenty-four in total, will be merged into one overarching environmental law (‘de omgevingswet’). Without getting too much into the legislative detail, this system change will undoubtedly impact the way that cities are designed and planned in the Netherlands.

The notion of change for Dutch planning and design has been the start of our investigation. In a series of interviews researcher Jelte Boeijenga and research-assistent Nina Bohm tried to find answers to questions such as: What is the new context designers will have to work in due to the legislative change? What are emerging opportunities for local governments to use design in order to achieve societal goals? What expertises and instruments do designers need to develop in order to answer to the ambitions of the new law?

From these interviews we recognised two developments of rising importance. Firstly, there is an explosion of information availability on the urban environment. That offers an opportunity to develop a platform, an interface, on which all that information is gathered and can be used to jointly design the environment. Secondly, this decentralising law anticipates on strong local-political forces. There, we see an opportunity for designers to employ design in order to contribute to societal and political agendas.

Last month we tested these hypotheses on two future, urban challenges: ‘City and Highway’ and ‘The Energy Transition’. Two focus groups consisting of lawyers, designers and societal experts engaged in our thought experiment on the future relation between law and design.

At the moment we are finalising a research report that explains all our findings from the past few months. In this publication the designer perspective will be very important, as we all too well realise that a broader conversation in the urban design community on this topic has yet to be started. To help instigate the discussion we plan to organise a public event to present and debate our research findings within the Faculty of Architecture end of this year. Keep an eye on this blog and the ‘Ontwerp en Wet’ twitter account for more information.

Recently an informative article based on our intermediary research findings last may has been published in the Faculty magazine B-nieuws.

The 500-mile City

How facebook exposes human migrationIMG_0975

The rise of globalisation, the development of internet and the culture of connectivity, increased mobility, and above all, the growth of the global city have radically changed the way we think about migration, citizenship and the nation state. Today, these global cities and nation states are transforming in very different ways. While the nation state is declining – not the concept, but the reality – the global city is expanding.

 During the past decade, scientists have compared the data of Facebook users’ place of birth with their current residential address, in order to reveal the top 10 cities that have ‘coordinated migrations’, i.e. the movement of large numbers of people from one place to another. While the concept of Facebook sometimes might be unnerving – Facebook undermines privacy by collecting sensitive personal information and sharing this information to third parties – the enormous numbers of personal data can also give fascinating insights about the world we live in and how it is changing…

article-2529905-1A4E9A1700000578-353_634x357This map represents coordinated migrations over the world. The map highlights the countries with the largest urbanisation growth between 2000 and 2012, according to data from the World Bank. However, data from China is lacking.


As the data comparison illustrates, today the biggest arrival cities are located in countries that are rapidly urbanising. In these nations, at least 20 percent of the population of one city has moved to another city within a decade. For instance, Lagos in Nigeria has grown 18.6 percent between 2000 and 2012 as a destination city.

Furthermore, the research and analysis by the World Bank foresee that in 2040 there will be more than 30 global cities or bigger urban areas that will be located in-between two or three nation states, mainly in Africa and some in Asia. For instance, in West-Africa, there is a conurbation of 70 million people which is connecting four different nation states. This continuous urban and industrially developed area is stretching over more than 500 kilometres. Thus, a new urban system is created which links the cities, Accra, Lome, Cotonou and Lagos. Lagos is the most populated of these four places, every day 2.000 new people are arriving in this city.

What will be the future relationship between these large global conurbations and nation states? What are and will be the effects of these massive, transnational, continuous urban areas on daily life of inhabitants and on local economies? Can design play a role on many different scales in this urban situation where there is no longer a strong role for the nation state? What are the local effects of the global exchange of urban design and development? And what will be the role of citizenship and belonging in an increasingly interdependent and increasingly widely organised society?

mega curch in lagosAs congregations in Lagos are so large, mass is often held in a series of buildings, some resembling hangars.


These are merely some of the questions we hope to address in our coming Design as Politics programme. Thus, in next year’s graduation studio we will focus on the topic of migration and mobility. This studio is organised with the support of Crimson Architectural Historians, the International New Town Institute and a great number of organisations and institutions that see migration and mobility as one of the defining factors for urbanisation in the near future. Besides, in quarter 3 and 4, we will have a new MSC2 Design Studio and Lecture Series about Urban Africa: the 500 Mile City. Also these courses will be organised in collaboration with the International New Town Institute, and a number of international global parties such as the Dutch Ministry for Foreign Affairs, UN Habitat, local universities and development agencies. We will keep you updated!


Exploring Alamar


Together with the International New Town Institute, we recently took a group of TU Delft Master students to Cuba in order to explore Alamar, a new town just east of Havana. This youngest and most adventurous addition to the city of Havana is a large urban area consisting of mainly prefab apartment blocks with 90.000 inhabitants. Built in the 1970s by microbrigades, Alamar was part of the embodiment of the Revolution itself: a large-scale housing complex for Castro’s workers.


Several decades later, this revolutionary dream has shown not to be resistant against the ravages of time: Alamar’s apartment blocks are in decay, the neighborhood is isolated from Havana’s city center itself and suffers from a lack of identity and a monotonous cityscape.


After researching the existing challenges and opportunities of the area together with students of the CUJAE university, the student groups presented short and long term visions for necessary improvements, using the area’s local economy and culture, it’s famous tradition in urban agriculture and the potential for (beach)tourism as transformational tools. The results were among others presented to the Dutch Ambassador at the Embassy of the Netherlands in Havana.

Back in Delft the students will further develop their design proposals. Also a travel guide for Alamar will be made as part of INTI’s New town travel guide series. Both the design proposals as well as the travel guide will be presented on June 24th, during a final event at the TU Delft. Professor Jorge Peña Díaz of the CUJAE university in Havana will be present during this event as s visiting critic. During the same week he will talk about urban agriculture in Alamar during the International New Town Day on June 30th.

A Workshop in Amsterdam’s Vijzelbank Building

Rethinking employment in the 21st century

work space air bnb officeUltra-flexible and cosy workspaces in a AirBNB office – is this the future?

As part of the Design as Politics graduation studio ‘Let’s Work!’, a workshop was organized by Failed Architecture about the future perspectives on work and what this could mean for the Vijzelbank, a building at the crossing of the Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht in Amsterdam’s city centre. Due to changing political attitudes, economic conditions and social and cultural preferences, the way we look at ‘work’ in the urban environment has transformed. In the past decades the Vijzelbank building has seen diverging manifestations of working in the city – from rows of cubicles to ultra-flexible and cosy hang-outs.

In his books The Third Industrial Revolution’ (2011) and ‘The Zero Marginal Cost Society’ (2014) social and economic theorist Jeremy Rifkin imagines the transition driven by new information technologies from a capitalist market economy to what he calls the ‘collaborative commons’. Rifkin describes internet technology and sustainable energy as merging to create ‘a third industrial revolution’. Lateral power is transforming energy, the economy and the world. Rifkin’s books are praised for helping shape the debate on technology displacement, corporate downsizing, outsourcing, global labour mobility, and the future of jobs. The Third Industrial Revolution has been on the New York Times Best Seller List and is translated into 19 languages.

While the change of job policies and the digitalisation of manufacturing is explained in the books, not so much is written about the spatial implications for buildings and cities regarding this ‘third industrial revolution’. These changes, however, will have a large impact on jobs for architects and urban planners – on the way they shape buildings, cities work places and thus societies.
Therefore, in the workshop of Failed Architecture, students started to imagine and discuss different scenarios for the future of a concrete project location, the Vijzelbank. Will the boundaries between work and leisure become blurred in the future – due to decreasing working hours in the Netherlands? Can we start creating new forms of living and working in a shared space? Can we think of a new type of workspace in which facilities such as administration, catering and specialist production are centralized and shared by various organizations and demands? Check it out!


Symposium: We Care a Lot!

WCAL symp

2016-03-15 15.39.31

On the 15th of March we presented our research for the Chief Government Architect on elderly care and aging in Dutch neighborhoods to a group of policy makers, researchers and architects during the symposium ‘We Care a Lot.’ Here’s a report of the day ( in Dutch) by Design as Politics’ Mike Emmerik and Architecture student Hedwig van der Linden.

Wat is de relatie tussen zorg en verstedelijking en de sociale functie van het verzorgingshuis als ontmoetingsplaats voor de hele buurt? Een interdisciplinair team van studenten en onderzoekers van de TU Delft, medewerkers van het International New Town Institute en twee jonge ontwerpers ging in opdracht van Atelier Rijksbouwmeester aan de slag met een ontwerpend onderzoek. In het kader van ‘Oog voor de Buurt’, werden woonzorgcentrum Humanitas in Deventer en de woonzorglocatie ‘Buiten Zorg’ in Zuid-Scharwoude onderzocht. Op 15 maart werden de resultaten van het onderzoek gepresenteerd tijdens het symposium ‘We Care a Lot! Zorg, Stad en Ontwerp.’ In de aanwezigheid van de Rijksbouwmeester en verschillende professionals op het gebied van zorg en ruimtelijke ordening, werd gesproken over de toekomst van zorg in de buurt, en wat de bevindingen uit dit onderzoek voor andere locaties kunnen betekenen.

Probleemstelling: Zorg en ontwerp
Design as Politics’ Hoogleraar Wouter Vanstiphout, binnen wiens leerstoel dit onderzoek is uitgevoerd, trapt het symposium af met een toelichting van de probleemstelling rondom zorg en ontwerp. Hij beschrijft hoe het huidige beleid van extramuralisering in de zorg resulteert in een aantal belangrijke vraagstukken op zowel ruimtelijk als sociaal gebied. Zo zal een groot aantal verzorgingshuizen de komende jaren haar huidige functie verliezen. De raad voor de Leefomgeving en Infrastructuur (RLI) heeft berekend dat dit, samen met gehandicaptenzorg en ggz-locaties, zelfs kan oplopen tot ongeveer 4 miljoen m2 vrijkomend zorgvastgoed. Dit leidt niet alleen tot grote vraagstukken op het gebied van transformatie of sloop, maar heeft ook een sterke invloed op de leefbaarheid van onze wijken, zo stelt Vanstiphout.

Verzorgings- of verpleeghuizen kunnen relatief eenvoudig getransformeerd worden tot bijvoorbeeld studentenflats, maar daarmee krijgt de wijk niet de verzameling van ook voor de (oudere) buurtbewoners toegankelijke functies terug, zoals de cafés, apotheken, huisartsenposten of andere publieke voorzieningen die dikwijls de begane grond van de instelling bezetten. Met het sluiten van verzorgingshuizen in de wijk komt de ‘sociale functie’ van het gebouw als ontmoetingsplaats waar bewoners, en omwonenden uit bijvoorbeeld aanleunwoningen of serviceflats samenkomen om te eten, koffie te drinken of een potje biljart spelen, te vervallen. Hierdoor wordt het moeilijker voor ouderen om sociale contacten te onderhouden, met als gevolg dat sommigen van hen dreigen te vereenzamen. De vraag is nu hoe voor hen een woonomgeving gecreëerd kan worden waarin deze voorzieningen een plaats hebben en waar zij zich geborgen en veilig voelen. Juist rondom de rol die architectonisch en stedenbouwkundig ontwerp kunnen spelen in het faciliteren en vormgeven van deze toekomstige leefomgeving is nog weinig kennis en ervaring ontwikkeld. Dit onderzoek richt zich specifiek op dit vraagstuk.

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Progress Presentations Graduation Studio Let’s Work

public event


By now our graduation studio Let’s Work! is already up and running for more than half a year. The midterm review is behind us, and coming Thursday we will have another progress presentation in the faculty of Architecture in room C. Mayor decisions about program, location and composition have been made by the students. The presentations will be open for the public, so you are very welcome to join!

Check out what our students are up to by clicking in the links below:

Gintare Norkunaite –  Second Life of the Atomgrad
Martin Dennemark Foundation for Transportation
Zuzanna MielczarekTowards a post-carbon Silesia
Ludo GroenConsumption & Production in Vrin
Wyn Llord Jones – Housing as a means of renewal in the Rhondda
Frederico Riches – Urban Factory
Matiss Groskaufmanis Life That Works

New Graduation Studio 2016/2017!


We are very excited to announce our new 2016/2017 graduation studio: A City of Comings and Goings – Designing for migration and mobility. This studio starts in September 2016 and is open for students of the Architecture, Urbanism and Landscape Architecture tracks at TU Delft. Interested? Send us your motivation before April 18th!

Migration and mobility define how we use our cities and landscapes. Climate change, conflicts and a globalised economy keep us constantly on the move, whether we are rich ex-pats, hard working labour migrants, young international students or refugees. In this studio we are looking for new perspectives, new solutions, new utopias or new research into this topic. How can we design buildings, cities and landscapes that make the best of our restless lives, that profit from the constant exchange of people, that can withstand the pressures of a growing and shrinking, ever changing population?

This studio is framed within the approach of Design as Politics; critical, bold, and design based research, linked to a specific theme but open for your own projects and you own interpretation. We will organize lectures, workshops, and a field excursion to feed you with new ideas and inspiration for your project, while at the same time challenge you to take your own position.

Are you ready to become a Design as Politics Graduate, willing and able to dedicate yourself to a studio that is at once rigorous and experimental, freethinking and super-pragmatic, individualist yet with a strong team spirit? Then apply for this studio! Send us an email ( explaining your motivation to join his studio (max 1,5 A4 / 600 words) and some examples of your previous writings and design. Deadline:  April 18th 2016. Only limited places available.

This studio organized with the support of Crimson Architectural Historians, the International New Town Institute and a great number of organisations and institutions that see migration and mobility as one of the defining factors for urbanization in the near future. The results will contribute to a large public event in 2018.