Design and the new Environment & planning Act

Nederland, Amsterdam, 27-02-2013 In het Regardz Planetarium wordt er door een handjevol bewoners gebrainstormd over de toekomst van Gaasperdam. Een nieuw imago staat hoog op de agenda. Zo moet Gaasperdam in de toekomst niet meer worden geassioceerd met 'De Bijlmer' maar met 'Het Gooi'. Of dan tenminste Weesp en Abcoude. 

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!