All posts filed under “methods

Drawing the Delta

Drawing by Paul Broekhuisen, van Eesteren Chair, 2014

Drawing isn’t merely a way to represent crystallised ideas; it is an instrument to research and develop potential relations between problem-statement and spatial interventions. It is a mean to get grasp on the intrinsic qualities of space. Eye, brain and hand cooperate: it is a way of thinking.

Drawing helps to connect generic planning concepts and strategies with spatial interventions that are context-bound.

Deltaic landscapes challenge drawing even more because they are so dynamic, elusive and scale transcending.

Delta Urbanism Research Program education activities you learn skills to play with, for purpose and pleasure.

Design as a way of research

Drawing by Paul Broekhuisen, van Eesteren Chair, 2014

Delta Design requires frontier research from many divergent disciplines. Besides, design can be considered as a way of research in itself: as an instrument to imagine potential futures and to reframe current approaches. The act of spatial design is inquisitive by definition; creative experiments and “trial and error” play a crucial role. Delta Urbanism stimulates this research oriented approaches – always related to the development of spatial, site- and scale-specific design proposals; addressing urgent issues, as well as celebrating their latent beauty.

Designing with uncertainty: adaptive designs, scenarios

Two different scenarios for the Southwest delta:
1. ‘Steam’ extreme climate change; explosive economic and demographic growth
2.‘Quiet’ moderate climate change; economic and demographic decline
Courtesy of IPDD project – H+N+S Landscape architects

Designing in urbanising delta reasons means that we should take several uncertainties take into account: the uncertainty concerning the exact future climate change and effects of climate change, and the uncertainty concerning the future economic, demographic and urban developments. For that reason, we try to develop designs and design-methods which are able to deal with these uncertainties. Our designs should provide answers for short- and midterm questions, but they should be prepared for long term futures too.

By exploring different possible long term scenarios, we test the outcomes of these scenarios in the map of the region. Our designs for the short term should be able to adapt to different possible scenarios for the long term.


  • Meyer, Han, Arnold Bregt, Ed Dammers, Jurian Edelenbos (eds), 2015, New perspectives on urbanizing deltas, Amsterdam: MUST Publishers

Working with layers, times, scales

3 layers x 3 time x 1 scale
Courtesy of Sahil Kanekar. San Francisco Bay, California. D-i 2016-2017 Adaptation by Design


We consider urbanising deltas as complex systems, which are composed by several sub-systems. These subsystems influence each other continuously, which leads to an on-going evolution of the spatial form of the delta, with different effects on different scales. The sub-systems can be summarised in three ‘layers’: the layer of the natural system of territory and water (‘substratum’), the layer of networks of infrastructures, and the layer of occupation (urban patterns, agriculture). Each layer is characterised by its own dynamics and speed.

In our research and education we try to apply a ‘3 x 3 x 3’ system-analysis of each delta, by analyzing 3 layers in 3 different periods at 3 different scales.

This analysis delivers a basic understanding of the driving forces and the speed of change of each layer, resulting in an understanding of the contradictions, paradoxes, problems, as well as the challenges, opportunities and hidden beauty for the future of the delta.


  • McHarg, Ian, 1969, Design with Nature, New York: Natural History Press
  • Meyer, Han, Steffen Nijhuis, 2016: Designing for Different Dynamics: The search for a new practice of planning and design in the Dutch delta, in Juval Portugali, Egbert Stolk eds., Complexity, Cognition, Urban Planning and Design, Berlin: Springer