Initiated by the ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment (Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu) of the Netherlands and housed within the faculty of architecture at the Delft University of Technology, the chair of Design as Politics is exploring, researching and defining the boundaries, commonalities and tensions between the fields of politics and design.
The chair understands politics in the widest sense possible: it defined it as the level in society on which conflicting interests between groups of citizens become visible and are being solved, oftentimes through debate and negotiation, but possibly also by exerting power or using physical violence. Politics as an adjective means, to be able to formulate a vision of society in which certain interests are consciously given higher values than others, and to know how to use the available tools to turn this view of society into action.
Design & Politics does not consider design and politics to be two separated worlds, but rather considers politics to be an important dimension of design and, simultaneously, design as an equally important tool for practicing politics. An alternative name for the chair could thus be ‘Design as Politics’. This means that looking at the realm of politics will renew the toolset of the designer, while the spatial perspective of developments in society will be considered to enrich the existing set of political instruments.
With this premise, the chair is explicitly looking for alternatives for classical top-down planning methods and control mechanisms, through which governments have manifested themselves in the 20th century. This is done against the current (Dutch) political background, in which a strong emphasis is placed on decentralisation of governmental duties and the greater involvement of citizens in the so-called civil society. This calls for alternative models and tools, which allow us to let emerge greater differences on a smaller, regional and even local level. Through research projects, design studios and a series of lectures, the chair is exploring the consequences of this changing system in relation to design and how spatial quality can best be created, now and in the future.
Professor Wouter Vanstiphout is professor of Design & Politics. He is an Architectural Historian and a founding member of Crimson Architectural Historians. He has written extensively on urbanism, specializing in the urban renewal of post war cities. As a practitioner he has directed the renewal of the Dutch industrial satellite town of Rotterdam: Hoogvliet and advises municipalities, the national government, housing corporations and Project Developers on matters relating to urban renewal, cultural heritage and spatial andurban politics. Since 2012 he is member of the national advisory council on the environment and infrastructure (RLI).
Teacher/Researcher Mike Emmerik is a teacher at Design as Politics and coordinator of the chair’s research and education activities. As an independent practitioner Mike has worked on several projects at the intersection of urban design, policy and social issues. His projects include advisory work for local municipalities around Transit Oriented Development, a study for Architectuur Lokaal on the role of design in relation to a new spatial planning law (de omgevingswet), and various projects for the Board of Government Advisors.
PhD Researcher Rachel Keeton is a PhD candidate at Design as Politics. An architect by training, Keeton has worked in the field of urban research for the last ten years, specializing in contemporary new towns in Asia and Africa as a researcher with the International New Town Institute (INTI). She is a co-editor of the forthcoming book Urban Africa: A Handbook for New Planned Cities (Nai010, 2017) together with Michelle Provoost, and author of Rising in the East: Contemporary New Towns in Asia (SUN, 2011), as well as journal and magazine articles related to new town development. She lectures regularly at international venues such as the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Harvard University and UN Habitat Expert Group Meetings. PhD research received a Delft Global Development Fellowship and is co-funded by the International New Town Institute.
PhD Researcher Nurul Azlan is a PhD Candidate at Design as Politics. An architect trained at the University of Technology Malaysia, she received a Masters in Architecture (Urban Design) from the Bartlett, UCL in 2007. Her research interest lies in the power structure that shapes and governs public space in postcolonial societies, and how social media plays a role in redistributing that power and reshaping the public sphere.