2017 - 2020
The key objective of the Action Agenda for Spatial Design 2017-2020 is to increase the strength of design and the role it plays in enhancing the quality of the physical environment. Thus far, we have considered the underlying vision. The remainder of the document is devoted to the programme, which is made up of ten complementary components.
The programme as a whole links design to projects and long-term programmes in which good design will contribute added value. The projects will give rise to best practice examples which can then be rolled out on a wider scale. To achieve the desired ‘flywheel’ effect, the programme also devotes attention to communication and the dissemination of knowledge whereby the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. The programme also establishes relationships between practice and education.
Success demands cooperation between various government departments, commissioning clients and designers. The Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, working closely with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, will promote and facilitate cooperation with the support of a network of partners. It is very much a joint enterprise. This is how we shall increase the strength of design in the Netherlands!
The programme 2017-2020
The programme accompanying the Action Agenda 2017-2020 seeks to promote the professional use of design skills to meet the challenges inherent in our physical environment. Design will to enhance the quality of the process and of the actual results. The spatial and societal issues to be addressed can be extremely diverse. What concepts are needed to allow seniors to remain in their own homes? How are we to create a circular economy in which resources are produced and used in a sustainable manner? What physical interventions are needed to ensure effective water management and flood protection in the face of climate change?
The programme is based on a number of basic principles. First, it aims to address a broad range of issues, at various levels of scale, and to achieve visible results in each. Second, it provides for activities and instruments which address the requirements of various target groups. They include central government (particularly with regard to projects which address the public responsibilities), local and regional authorities, and private sector parties with ideas for projects intended to improve the physical environment. Educational institutes can draw upon the programme to support their design curriculum.
Actual implementation of the programme falls to a broad network of partners who represent, or are in contact with, the target groups. The lead ministries will therefore continue their cooperation with the existing network of implementing partners which comprises the Creative Industries Fund NL, the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, Architectuur Lokaal, Delft University of Technology (with input from Eindhoven University of Technology and Wageningen University & Research Centre), the Academies of Architecture in the Netherlands, the Board of Government Advisers and Het Nieuwe Instituut. In late 2015, the network was expanded to include the Ontwerpteam (O-team), set up by the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment as an independent adviser to public sector authorities.
The effective implementation of the programme calls for close cooperation between the network partners themselves, and with any other parties with a contribution to make. Knowledge-sharing and alliance-forming are essential if the desired effects of the Action Agenda are to be achieved. In the years ahead, the programme will actively promote the exchange of knowledge at both national and international level.
All results further to the programme activities will be carefully documented and made available online. This will help to disseminate knowledge and experience as widely as possible. In time, the growing body of information will form a knowledge database covering all the many applications of spatial design.
The programme extends throughout the coming four-year policy period, although interim adjustments are possible if necessary. After two years, a midterm review of all programme components will be organised by the implementing partners. In 2020, a full evaluation of the Action Agenda and accompanying activities will be performed by an external consultant.
The programme builds on the results and effects achieved between 2013 and 2016. The Action Agenda for that period established the programmatic approach with which the government intends to build on the strength of design. This period also marked the beginning of close cooperation between the implementing parties. There are some shifts in emphasis within the current Action Agenda, prompted in part by the evaluation performed in early 2016.
The evaluation reveals that bringing together a large number of activities under the single banner of the Action Agenda has already done much to increase the strength of design, as indeed was the intention. The evaluation also confirms that many of the issues identified remain current and call for continued action. The ‘mix’ of activities, which included projects and programmes, workshops, design competitions, educational courses and the platform function – is seen to support the further development of design as an instrument.
The evaluation also reveals some points for improvement. The intended results and effects should be more clearly defined, and more attention should be devoted to the interim adjustment of activities to enhance efficiency. The evaluation also suggests that closer cooperation within the group of implementing partners, as well as between that group and external third parties, would increase effectiveness and produce better results.
The context of the Action Agenda 2017-2020
The Action Agenda 2017-2020 does not stand in isolation but forms part of a package of activities initiated by central government to increase the strength of design. The Agenda also creates a bridge between environmental policy and cultural policy.
In addition to the activities specified by the Action Agenda, the government will strive to fulfil its role as project principal and real estate owner in a manner which demonstrates effective commissioning and highlights the strength of design. We shall do so in various contexts, including the Multi-year Infrastructure, Space and Transport programme (MIRT), the Vision on Heritage and Space (VER) and in the management of government estate. The Market Vision produced by Rijkswaterstaat and its partners also devotes attention to effective commissioning.
The new Environmental Planning Act comes into effect in 2019. It integrates and simplifies existing legislation governing the physical environment. The National Environmental Vision Document (NOVI) presents the strategic choices and ambitions with regard to spatial development. It too will devote attention to the added value of design.
Within the government’s cultural policy, the Creative Industries Fund NL and Het Nieuwe Instituut are the most important sources of support for the various design sectors. These organizations are responsible for monitoring and promoting developments in architecture, urban planning, industrial design, fashion and the digital culture, at both national and international level.
The government’s cultural policy devotes much attention to internationalization. The Creative Industries Fund NL administers the financial aspects of the Internationalization Programme for the Design Sectors on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This programme aims to strengthen image of Dutch design, to expand its international arena, and to promote the exchange of knowledge by various means, including the development of a network of relevant international partners. The internationalization programme is built around themes such as sustainability, urban development, regeneration and transformation, water management and climate adaptation, to which much attention has been devoted in recent years. This programme therefore supports the objectives of this Action Agenda. The advisory report produced by the Council for Culture to support the production of the International Programme for the Design Sectors 2017-2020 has also provided useful input for the current document. The Council emphasizes the international potential of Dutch expertise in urban development, water management and specialist construction (e.g. schools and care facilities). A stronger international orientation will serve several objectives, including market expansion, talent development, knowledge exchange and the branding of Dutch design. Once again, the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts.
The combination of design and heritage will also influence the quality of the physical environment, whereby there is an important role for the Cultural Heritage Agency. Physical elements such as buildings and landscapes reveal the cultural history of our towns, cities and regions. They are the basis of recognizability and are the orientation points which allow residents and visitors to identify with a village, town or region. In 2011, the government issued a policy document entitled Vision on Heritage and Space (Visie Erfgoed en Ruimte; VER) which defines the position of cultural heritage within the spatial domain. The timely consideration of cultural-historic values in all spatial design plans will ensure that their societal and spatial significance is respected. The transition processes in areas such as water management, urban transformation and energy must take the historical context into account. Heritage undoubtedly contributes to the quality of the physical environment, as illustrated by the attractive force of cities with a significant number of historic buildings.
The creative industry is one of nine ‘top sectors’ which are acknowledged as being of great economic and societal importance to the future of the Netherlands. The design sectors are, of course, part of the creative industry. The ambitions of this Action Agenda are therefore in keeping with those of the government’s Top Sectors policy, especially in terms of innovation and internationalization.
Another government measure which has a close relationship with the Action Agenda but which does not fall within either environmental or cultural policy is the revision of the Wet op de Architectentitel (Architect Title Act 1987), legislation which restricts practice as an architect, urban planner, interior designer or landscape designer to qualified persons listed in the professional register. Registration requires the applicant to have completed graduate training and, since 2011, to show relevant experience. On 1 January 2015, the criteria were revised yet again. Anyone wishing to practise as an independent architect, urban planner, landscape architect or interior designer must now obtain a postgraduate (master’s) degree and must complete at least two years’ professional experience as a probationer.
Ten programme components
Atelier X is responsible for the design research activities within the priority projects of the Ministry of I&M. It acts on behalf the relevant policy department or executive agency, whereupon research is always supplementary to the (core) activities of the project concerned. The design processes of Atelier X transcend sectoral boundaries and the traditional administrative domains. They are therefore generally very complex. The added value of Atelier X’s research is that it creates a direct link between strategy development and actual projects, correlating various levels of scale and reconciling various interests.
Atelier X applies an area-specific approach. It brings together the various stakeholders and integrates the knowledge and skills of various disciplines and sectors. Research activities are programmed annually in advance. In 2017, Atelier X will be involved in the Energy and Space programme, several practical projects further to the Delta Programme, and the ‘Living Lab’ experiments of the City Agenda programme.
Research into good design practice results in projects and programmes which enjoy greater support, a better understanding of the possibilities, choices and obstacles, and of opportunities for new approaches or partnerships. All this helps to increase the contribution that design makes to the quality of the physical environment. The results produced by Atelier X exemplify the Dutch design approach and are therefore useful in terms of the national and international exchange of knowledge. Atelier X also helps to embed the role of design as a government (policy) instrument.
Board of Government Advisers
The Board of Government Advisers (CRa) is a team of three prominent experts who advise the government about innovative ways in which to incorporate good design practice into the national programmes and projects. Areas which have enjoyed the recent attention of the CRa include the bicycle infrastructure, accessibility and urban peripheral roads, the development of transport hubs, commercial transport in built areas (‘first and last mile’), the transformation and repurposing of government buildings, reception facilities for refugees, and the siting and spatial assimilation of wind turbines. The CRa’s input encourages ‘spatial thinking’ during the production and implementation of major plans such as the Multi-Year Infrastructure, Space and Transport programme (MIRT), the Vision on Heritage and Space (VER) and the Flood Protection programme (HWBP).
The Board is made up of the government architect and two prominent experts, one appointed by the Ministry of I&M and the other by the Ministry of EZ. There is a four-year policy agenda covering the period 2017 to 2020, produced in consultation with the relevant departments under the general direction of the Ministry of I&M. All departments are invited to help devise the annual work programme. This is adaptive in nature, containing selected topics and (inter-) departmental projects. The CRa provides advice based on the design disciplines, doing so both on request and at its own initiative. It also contributes to the deliberations of the ‘quality teams’ appointed to advise on matters of spatial quality in connection with major (infrastructural) projects such as the Zuidasdok in Amsterdam.
The CRa monitors trends and developments. It encourages the transfer of knowledge between central government, regional and local authorities, professional practice, the education sector and all other stakeholders. Its advice is multidisciplinary in nature, incorporate insights drawn from its members’ areas of expertise. Where appropriate, the CRa will align its activities and recommendations with those of the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (RLI), the Council for Culture (RvC) and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL).
The CRa’s input supports the ongoing use of spatial design as a key instrument within government projects and national programmes. It is also a means by which central government can maximize its contribution to effective commissioning.
The O-team advises and supports public sector bodies which commission spatial projects and programmes at the local or regional level. Provincial authorities, municipalities and water management authorities can call upon the O-team whenever cooperation or the area-specific approach needs a new impulse in order to safeguard quality. The O-team advises on matters such as the physical implications of population shrinkage, high vacancy rates in the city centres, or the local contribution to larger challenges such as accessibility, the energy transition and climate adaptation.
At the request of the relevant authority, the O-team may organize an interactive consultation process with the various stakeholders in which design is used as a means of identifying and visualizing the various interests and ambitions. The O-team will then be able to advise on the effective use of design in subsequent phases of the project. The client will then be able to implement or resume the plan development process based on terms of reference which enjoy the broad support of all, or at least most, stakeholders.
The O-team is an independent body which offers its advice only at the request of a local or regional authority. This party remains responsible for all decision-making and subsequent action. The precise role of the O-team and the nature of its interventions will be agreed on a case-by-case basis. The team’s areas of expertise include public administration and governance, design, and good commissioning. The O-team’s deliberations are always specific to the regional or local level of scale and the relevant spatial challenges. Its findings are generally published in the interests of knowledge-sharing.
The O-team also monitors new developments at the local and regional level. Authorities will soon be required to produce an environmental plan and/or vision document by means of a participative process. The O-team’s approach will help all authorities to meet the demands of public sector commissioning. Interventions by the O-team will give authorities a broader and more detailed understanding of their tasks, enabling them to instruct the relevant market parties accordingly.
IABR project ateliers
The ‘project ateliers’ within the programme of the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR) take the form of a short series of workshops or debates. Participants are asked to examine a complex issue under the general heading of ‘resilience’. Deliberations are concerned with the spatial impact of transitions such as climate adaptation, sustainability and the new economy in relation to the resilience of people and structures in terms of health and social inclusivity. Discussions are thematic, area-specific and innovative, intended to create a long-term agenda for further action and projects.
This programme is organized by the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR). Area-specific studies are conducted in association with the relevant local or regional authority. This ensures active participation by all relevant stakeholders, including elected officials and administrative staff. The local or regional authority is solely responsible for the implementation of results.
The programme is intended to demonstrate how the effective use of design supports a cross-sectoral approach and fosters cooperation between the various stakeholders in pursuit of innovation. Results, such as examples of the cross-sectoral approach, alliances, innovation and inspiration for policy and practice, are used to support international cooperation and knowledge-sharing.
Innovative Forms of Commissioning
The Innovative Forms of Commissioning programme supports local and regional experiments involving the use of spatial design in projects, as well as innovative forms of commissioning with regard to the development of the physical environment. It exists for the benefit of public sector authorities, companies, societal organizations and (collectives of) private individuals who wish to implement projects with the assistance of spatial designers. Initiatives might include:
- the identification of local solutions in areas such as energy provision, urban accessibility or regional food supplies strategies;
- the formation of a collective or platform to represent joint interests, or of coalitions to start joint initiatives;
- the development of public instruments, facilities or information to support commissioning practice.
The programme is organized and implemented by the Creative Industries Fund NL, which makes an annual call for proposals. A flanking programme exists to strengthen results and promote knowledge-sharing. The initiatives supported by the programme may lead to further projects and coalitions, and to best practice examples which inspire others to adopt new approaches, or perhaps even to develop new forms of commissioning. The incentive programme thus promotes innovation within (public) commissioning practice.
The programme is in keeping with the changing roles and responsibilities in spatial development and the maintenance of the physical environment. We can already see coalitions of residents and professionals taking advantage of the opportunities created by reduced government involvement.
Care and School Construction
The Care and School Construction programme enables project principals to experiment with innovative spatial concepts in the health and education sectors. It funds initiatives which explore innovative solutions, smart combinations or new strategies implemented in partnership with the direct stakeholders. These initiatives may be in response to trends such as privatization, decentralization and budgetary restraints, or they seek to improve the quality of welfare and education in the broader sense.
The Creative Industries Fund NL is responsible for the organization and implementation of this programme, which exists for the benefit of public sector authorities, companies, societal organizations and (collectives of) private individuals who wish to implement projects with the assistance of spatial designers. Each of the two subprogrammes (care locations and schools) has its own dynamic and approach.
The rapid developments within the healthcare and education sectors mean that the (design) tasks and the conditions for good commissioning are also changing. This programme addresses all such developments and helps to promote the quality of the physical environment in which health, welfare and education services are provided. The programme’s output includes best practice examples which will inspire commissioning clients and lead to further innovation. The traditional approach has focused solely on the building itself, while the required approach represents a combination of design, programme and location. This programme therefore devotes attention to the relationship between a school or health care facility and other public amenities at the local and regional levels of scale. It is not solely concerned with newbuild since demand for the transformation and management of existing buildings continues to grow. The fund organizes an annual call for proposals and there is a flanking programme intended to strengthen results and promote knowledge-sharing. Various creative disciplines, including interior design and the digital culture, are involved in the implementation of the programme to ensure an appropriately integrated approach.
Design and Practice
The Design and Practice programme allows design students to gain practical experience working on projects for regional and local authorities. They will develop their design skills while examining an actual case study in the same region as the relevant Academy of Architecture, gaining design experience which is in keeping with the requirements of commissioning clients. The local or regional authority acts as the students’ client and remains closely involved throughout the process. The educational institute will develop and test the methodology, which will be integrated into the curriculum. The programme will develop methods and skills needed to ensure the professional contribution of design to the urgent challenges within the physical environment. The key focus is the relationship between design and practice.
Organization and implementation of the Design and Practice programme falls to the Academy of Architecture in Amsterdam, working in association with all other Academies of Architecture in the Netherlands. Activities include the formation of a research department (‘lectorate’) and a course module to be given at all six academies. The research department will seek to develop a strong regional network.
The programme offers specific practical experience to design students while giving local and regional commissioning clients access to the creativity and design strength within the ‘free thinking space’ of the educational courses. It will promote the professionalization of the design sector by exposing students to the practical skills and methods they will apply throughout their careers. At the local and regional level, results may prompt further projects or the formation of new coalitions. To ensure ongoing relevance to changing practice, it is important that due attention is devoted to the development of methodology and skills. The Design and Practice will make a clear contribution in the regard, as well as providing practical experience in addressing diverse issues in various forms of coalition and partnership. Its embedding with the architecture academies will ensure that the educational field continues to devote attention to the position and importance of design.
Design and Government
The Design and Government programme comprises a professorial chair at Delft University of Technology and a research network. The programme’s main focus is the role of design within the transition issues: energy provision, climate adaptation, the circular economy, health and welfare, mobility, urbanization, etc. It is also concerned with the changing roles and responsibilities in spatial development practice, and in particular the role of the designer in formulating regional or local zoning plans. The chair is concerned with practical situations involving complex area (re)development, which it links to new insights further to scientific research at the international level. The research network brings together existing knowledge about the relationship between design and government, which it supplements by means of its own research and a practical orientation.
Responsibility for the organization and implementation of the programme rests with Delft University of Technology. The research component centres around the Chair of Design and Politics at the university’s Faculty of Architecture, which maintains close contact with counterparts at the universities of Eindhoven and Wageningen. The research budget supports a joint programme as well as ad hoc research projects. Interdisciplinary cooperation within the projects is possible and often involves departments which are not traditionally associated with design and architecture, such as law, politics and computer science.
The Design and Government programme facilitates research examining the role of design in (semi-) public commissioning, viewed in the context of the new Environmental Planning Act and its requirements in terms of environmental visions and plans. The key focus is the relationship between design and government. The programme seeks to strengthen the role and significance of design within spatial development policy, whereby its importance is to be acknowledged by both the design sector and the (semi-) public commissioning clients. The programme connects knowledge and scientific insights, and promotes dialogue and exchange between science, practice and policy. Both the chair and the research network make and active contribution to the (professional) debate within the sector, within design courses and among those who commission design services. The programme also serves to reinforce network connections between Delft University of Technology, Eindhoven University of Technology and Wageningen University & Research Centre.
Commissioning and Design
The Commissioning and Design programme makes knowledge in the area of design and commissioning practice – in the generic and active form – available to commissioning clients. The practical programme is concerned with the requirements of various target groups and is appropriate to the changing context of spatial planning practice. This programme brings together the knowledge and experience gained in all other components of the Action Agenda programme, developing active working methods and learning situations. Commissioning clients can draw inspiration and set about working on their own design challenges within a multidisciplinary and practice-oriented setting. The programme contents can be tailored to the specific requirements of commissioning clients, public administrators, developments, knowledge workers and others who work alongside (young) designers. The programme also provides advice and guidance in all aspects of design and good commissioning practice.
Responsibility for organization and implementation rests with Architectuur Lokaal. This independent national centre of expertise initiates and runs the programme courses, drawing on its expertise in tendering for design services and a local and regional network. The programme is specifically geared to (semi-)public and collective forms of commissioning.
The Commissioning and Design programme will help to strengthen public commissioning practice by disseminating knowledge and expertise. It enables a large and diverse target group of professionals to familiarize themselves with the ways in which design can contribute to spatial planning and the development of the physical environment.
Golden Pyramid Award
The Golden Pyramid Award is an annual prize given in recognition of inspirational commissioning. Each year, the organizers produce a shortlist of local projects in which the process and results exemplify inspirational commissioning which draws on the strength of design. Eligible projects include those concerned with the sustainable, climate-proof redevelopment of industrial sites, transformations in the rural area, conversion and repurposing of individual buildings, or projects which enhance the quality and liveability of local neighbourhoods. Nominated commissioning clients can include public sector authorities, water management authorities, developers, societal organizations and (collectives) of private individuals. The shortlisted projects illustrate the role that design plays in the development of inspirational commissioning. The winner is selected by a panel of experts.
The Golden Pyramid Award is sponsored by the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, and the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. The competition itself is organized by the Government Architect. An evaluation is to be held in late 2016 with a view to increasing the effectiveness of the award. It will consider aspects such as the judging arrangements, communication of nominations and results, and the monetary value of the prize.
The Golden Pyramid Award increases access to knowledge and experience in inspirational commissioning and helps those responsible for the development of the physical development to define their precise role. Inspiring examples demonstrate that excellent commissioning which draws upon the strength of design will lead to equally excellent results. The Golden Pyramid Award increases general interest in the strength of design. It not only promotes the (professional) debate but fosters appreciation for effective commissioning and good design among a much wider public.
Budget allocation 2017-2020
Amounts (€ x 1000) per annum, assuming multi-year coverage for period 2017-2020.
* The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) finances the Government Architect’s involvement in the Board of Government Advisers under the Atelier Rijksbouwmeester budget.