Author Archives: Mike Emmerik

WE CARE A LOT! – Final report


In the autumn of 2016 we conducted a research and design project commissioned by the Chief Government Architect of the Netherlands (Rijksbouwmeester) as part of his program ‘Oog voor de buurt’. The topic was aging and healthcare in Dutch neighborhoods. Together with students of the architecture master track, two Design as Politics Alumni and the International New Town Institute, we took a closer look at two specific cases: elderly home Humanitas in Deventer and the assisted living facility ‘Buiten Zorg’ in Zuid-Scharwoude – a village in the province of North-Holland. This led to two reports, one for each area, in which we made recommendations and proposed design interventions for a better integration of healthcare in those neighborhoods – responding to the current and upcoming changes in the Dutch healthcare system which is aimed at living at home as long as possible. We also organized a symposium around this topic. Wanna know more? You can now find both reports on our issuu account here and here (in Dutch only)

Another 4 years!


We are very proud to inform you that the chair of Design as Politics will continue for another four years! This was announced yesterday at the presentation of the new action-agenda on spatial design, titled Working together on the power of design (Samen werken aan ontwerpkracht) by the Dutch national government. As a consequence we’ll continue to spam you with our opinions, research projects, lectures, design studio’s, workshops, exhibitions and articles until at least the end of 2020. Whether you like it or not.

Minister Schultz van Haegen of Infrastructure and the Environment (IenM) and Minister Bussemaker of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) came to our faculty yesterday to present their new agenda to a large audience of designers, students, policy makers and researchers from all around the country. Focus for the next 4 years will be on social-spatial issues that have to do with our changing world, whether it is climate change, the future of mobility, migration, the energy transition, healthcare or education. ‘These questions require an innovative approach and revolutionary new solutions, while at the same time the changing roles between government and society ask for new ways of organization and collaboration.‘ Also the new environmental planning law which will be enacted in 2019 (de omgevingswet) ‘requires new knowledge and skills for an integrated and participatory approach. The new Action-agenda departs from these changes and aims to contribute to the quality of our environment by means of design.


25 years of architecture policy, 8 years design as politics
Already since 1991, the Dutch government has been making policy especially focused on architecture and the built environment. Through this policy, the government has supported the work of multiple institutions that are active in the field of architecture and urban development. This has led to an enormous amount of innovative design studies, educational programs, research projects, debates and exhibitions that fuel the Dutch architectural debate. The Chief government architect has therefore taken the initiative to organize a traveling exhibition about the history and influence of 25 years of architectural policy in the Netherlands. The chair has been proudly part of the last 8 years and we’re honored to remain part of this agenda for another term. The exhibition is currently on show at our own faculty @ BK-Expo and will move to the New Institute at the beginning of January.

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.

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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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.

Design and the new Environment & planning Act

Research project

Picture by Jan Dirk van der Burg

We recently started a brand new research project together with the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. Throughout the coming months we will be exploring the relationship between the new Environment & planning Act (de Omgevingswet) and architectural/urban design.

This new law takes effect in 2018 and will incorporate 4700 articles, 120 general orders in council and 120 ministerial regulations into 1 planning law, 4 general orders in council and 10 ministerial regulations. The aim of this immense operation is to make the decision-making process around spatial interventions more straight forward en efficient. At the same time it responds to changes in society and policy making by creating room for different types of (citizen)participation and should facilitate a more integral approach in which complex spatial questions can be tackled. In other words: Integral, decentral, participatory, transparent and effective seems to be the qualitative goals of the ‘omgevingswet.’

But what will these juridical changes mean for planning and design in a country like the Netherlands – which has as century old tradition of shaping the country through collective effort and control? What is the new context that arises by this systematic change? What are the changing conditions, possibilities and opportunities that this creates for commissioners to use design as a tool to deal with spatial and social challenges? And, what type of expertise and instruments should design, or research by design (as a professional discipline) offer, or develop in the light of this new law?

Through a sharp analysis of the law and the system, learning and studying practices and by means of interviews with stakeholders, we do not just try to understand the relationship between design as this new law, but we aim to investigate how design and design research can help to operationalize the ambitions and the values that are the basis of this law. The goal of this research is to gain insight into what the role of design could be for planning in the new context, for both the designing discipline, as well as for local and regional authorities and other clients. We will look into which tools a designer could use or develop to optimally respond to issues that clients are facing at the comment.

To carry out this project, we have temporarily expanded our team with researcher Jelte Boeijenga and student assistant Nina Bohm. We also launched a new website: to keep you updated on our findings! (in Dutch). Any interesting thoughts about this topic? Let us know!

Nurul Azlan Reports from Kuala Lumpur

Nurul-Fieldnote1DJI_0010-700x525Image of Bersih 4 in Kuala Lumpur. Picture courtesy of Malaysiakini.

(This text was originally published on the Global Urban Lab blog). The tension is palpable. It is the morning of August 29th, 2015, and I am peering out the window of my hotel room in central Kuala Lumpur for last minute clues. I have two shirts laid out on the bed, one checkered with yellow and dark blue, and the other is plain black. At the corner of the bed is the yellow Bersih t-shirt I bought after the ‘Your Rights and the Police’ talk I attended a few days earlier. Wearing that t-shirt is out of the question. I am there as an observer, not as a participant. Surely, the yellow and dark blue checkered shirt is safe enough for that purpose? Surely, the authorities are not serious when they announced that yellow items of clothing are banned under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984? Surely yellow t-shirts are not seditious?

I am in Kuala Lumpur to observe Bersih 4, an organised rally protesting against the 1MDB financial scandal, which also implicates the Prime Minister due to the RM 2.6 billion found in his personal bank account. As the name indicates, this rally is the fourth iteration of such organised by the civil society movement, Bersih 2.0, which is a coalition of NGOs that call for electoral reform. Since achieving independence in 1957, elections are regularly held every five years, even though the same coalition, Barisan Nasional, has won every time. Bersih (Clean in Malay) argue that the electoral system needs to be reformed, due to manipulation of the system such as gerrymandering. After all, elections are, the cornerstone of democracy.

The rallies organised by Bersih have always taken place in Kuala Lumpur, the financial capital of Malaysia, a city established on tin-mining in mid -19th century during the time of colonial British. The first rally in 2007 brought thousands of people to the streets of Kuala Lumpur after a period of relative quietness. That particular protest seemed to have opened the floodgates. There was an explosion of protest activities since then, with a myriad of causes ranging from the purely political to environmental issues.

Nurul2 First day of the protest (August 29th). Picture courtesy of Nurul Azlan

The first Bersih rally in 2007 also witnessed the use of social media, although it was not until the second rally in 2011 that it became truly widespread and, as some have argued, crucial to the success of the rallies in terms of mobilisation. Set against the backdrop of a worldwide eruption of protests in 2011, from Occupy to the Arab Spring, Bersih share a similar trait with the others, a prominent online presence matched with a highly visible occupation of urban space.

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