Working Together on the Strength of Design

Action Agenda for Spatial
Design 2017 - 2020

  • Good design can help tackle climate change. It reduces the impacts of disaster. It can help make our cities safer, cleaner and more equal end integrative. It promotes equal access to services, jobs and opportunities, and fosters contentment. Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General
  • “We must use people’s own capacity, ideas and resources to provide a better environment. The scarcest resource in cities today is not money, but coordination. So we need to create open systems that can include people’s own capacity to add value to their living conditions and opportunities.” Alejandro Aravena
    Pritzker Prize 2016 acceptance lecture,
  • Good design can help tackle climate change. It reduces the impacts of disaster. It can help make our cities safer, cleaner and more equal end integrative. It promotes equal access to services, jobs and opportunities, and fosters contentment. Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General
  • We must use peoples’ own capacity, ideas and resources to provide a better environment. The scarcest resource in cities today is not money, but coordination. So we need to create open systems that can include peoples’ own capacity to add value to their living conditions and opportunities. Alejandro Aravena
    Pritzker Prize 2016 acceptance lecture,


The manner in which we design and maintain the physical environment is influenced by developments at both national and global level. Effective spatial design goes a long way towards resolving challenges in areas such as water management, climate, mobility, migration, urbanization and energy. It underpins and facilitates social functions such as healthcare and education.

The strength of design relies on good cooperation between designers and their commissioning clients. This document – the Action Agenda for Spatial Design 2017-2020 – seeks to promote effective cooperation and increase the strength of design. It presents a vision for the future and a programme of ten specific activities which will ensure that due attention is devoted to design within spatial projects. The overall aim is encapsulated in the title, ‘Working together to increase the strength of design’.

The Action Agenda has been produced chiefly for the benefit of ‘commissioning clients’: the professionals who are working on issues of national significance such as climate adaptation, the energy transition and sustainable mobility, as well as those involved in area development, infrastructural assimilation or the design of the public space. It will be of interest to those responsible for sectors in which major changes have far-reaching spatial implications, such as the public administrators of cities with a high retail vacancy rate, or those whose portfolio includes schools and healthcare institutions. The Agenda is also relevant to organizations and neighbourhood collectives wishing to raise the quality of the living environment.

The term ‘designers’ can refer to architects, urban planners, interior designers and landscape architects. Their role is to visualize and create connections. They combine creativity and knowledge on the one hand with an analysis of the relevant societal issues and stakeholder interests on the other.

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The designer organises a process in which various scenarios are examined, alternatives considered and choices made. He then presents his insights, knowledge and ideas in a way that can be readily understood by people of various backgrounds and disciplines. The designer reveals a situation which does not yet exist and the consequences of its creation: a society with driverless vehicles, smart grids, education without schools, healthcare provision in the patient’s own home, to give just a few examples.

Design is important in creating connections. Perhaps there are divergent interests which must be reconciled. We may wish to forge new links between developments at the local, regional and national levels, or coordinate ongoing projects with the long-term strategies. Design can meet all these aims by facilitating cooperation between the various actors involved. Designers are now much better equipped to do so.

The strength of design comes into its own when there is effective commissioning. The client must allow the designer room to explore new perspectives and to organize broad participation. This demands sensitivity. Clients must be aware of what is – and is not – possible. This Action Agenda and its accompanying programme devote close attention to all aspects of the commissioning client’s role.

Over the coming four-year period, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) and the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment (I&M) will invest four million euros per annum in ten programme components which seek to maximize the potential the possibilities of spatial design. Various projects will address the urgent societal challenges of today based on an individualized approach. The results will be suitably diverse. The overall programme will be implemented by a network of partners in which the two lead ministries are joined by the Creative Industries Fund NL, the Board of Government Advisers (CRa), the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, Architectuur Lokaal, Het Nieuwe Instituut, Het Ontwerpteam (O-team), Delft University of Technology (with input from Eindhoven University of Technology and Wageningen University and Research Centre), and the Academies of Architecture in the Netherlands. The diversity of this network allows the programme to reach various target groups, thus maximizing the dissemination of knowledge.

All results made possible by the Action Agenda and its programme will be published online. Knowledge and experience will be shared as widely as possible. It is hoped that this will inspire an ever broader group of professionals become involved, whereupon the website will become a showcase for various, extremely diverse applications of spatial design. The growing body of knowledge will also support international cooperation, trade missions and other forms of cultural and economic interaction.

We are about to open a new chapter in the spatial design tradition of the Netherlands. A new approach to design is essential if we are to provide an effective response to the urgent spatial challenges, and if we are to create inspiring examples worthy of emulation. Although we are building upon a strong design history and reputation, the emphasis now shifts to address the social and economic situation that is the legacy of the recent crisis. Design must be brought closer to society itself, with a more prominent role for non-governmental actors such as private sector companies, civil society organizations and engaged individuals.

The Action Agenda establishes good design as the precursor of excellent results. We shall actively promote its principles and work to increase the number of professionals who adopt the new approach. This document also provides the basis for many inspiring examples which we shall present at home and abroad to demonstrate the strength of design.

Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment,
Schultz van Haegen

Minister of Culture, Education and Science,
Jet Bussemaker

Read down below the vision on Working together on the strength of design
or go straight to the programme


How the physical environment is changing

1 How the physical environment is changing

Various ongoing developments will impact the form and usage of the physical environment. The Netherlands is actively seeking solutions to challenges in areas such as climate adaptation, energy, sustainability and mobility. The physical environment is affected by urbanization and population shrinkage, and by developments in healthcare and education. Societal relationships are becoming more open and dynamic, with new roles for government authorities, non-governmental organizations and the general public. Central government has opted to place certain responsibilities closer to the citizen. It wishes to simplify legislation. All such changes have consequences for the physical environment. The new Environmental Planning Act (Omgevingswet) provides far greater opportunity for initiatives by non-governmental actors. It introduces a new dynamic in the design and management of the physical environment.

1.1 Our physical environment is changing

The global challenges demand major transitions in all countries, including the Netherlands. One such challenge is climate change. Our country must soon contend with the effects of the rising sea level. Our rivers may have to carry a far greater volume of water. The risk of flooding will increase, although some areas may experience water shortages. Periods of extreme precipitation will become more frequent, as will periods of extended drought. Climate mitigation and adaptation measures are needed. We must try to slow, or preferably reverse, global warming. We must adapt our water management systems, coastal defences and the spatial structure of the urban and rural regions accordingly.
Population growth and increasing prosperity are also placing the resilience of our planet under severe strain. A new, more circular, economy is needed. The pursuit of sustainability has already begun. The ‘energy transition’ from fossil fuels to renewables is ongoing. Reliance on depleting resources is being reduced through greater emphasis on recycling and re-use.

Modern technology supports the development of new solutions. Researchers are eagerly exploring alternative ways in which to meet society’s energy requirement using wind, solar power and geothermal heat. There is a growing awareness of the spatial consequences that the energy transition will have. The success of that transition will depend on the support of the society at large. Everyone must make his or her contribution.

The physical environment is influenced by political, demographic, socio-economic and technological developments. The healthcare sector is changing as people are now encouraged to live in their own homes for as long as possible rather than relying on residential care services. Migration, particularly the recent influx of refugees, has raised certain issues with regard to housing and social integration. The urban areas continue to show strong growth, in marked contrast to the stagnation, or in some cases shrinkage, of the rural areas. At the same time, many cities have a high commercial property vacancy rate. The existing buildings are obsolete and must be replaced. Customized solutions are needed and those solutions must devote attention to all aspects in combination: migration, newbuild development, conversion and repurposing, health and welfare, employment, food provision, et cetera.

A Home away from Home Design Competition for innovative housing solutions for asylum seekers

On 18 January 2016, the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) and the Government Architect, Floris Alkemade, launched ‘A Home away from Home’, an open call design competition inviting innovative housing solutions for refugees and other urgent groups. Entries represent a very broad range of ideas, from prefabricated units and polystyrene ‘pods’ to new social strategies with wider applicability. After all, the demand for temporary, flexible and affordable accommodation is not restricted to asylum-seekers but can also be seen among students, single-person households, first-time buyers and seniors wishing to downsize.
‘A Home away from Home’ is an initiative of COA Netherlands in association with the Government Architect of the Netherlands.

1.2 Society is changing

Roles and positions within society are changing. We see new relationships between government authorities, private sector companies, civil society organizations and private individuals, all of whom enter into coalitions of varying configurations. This creates a requirement for more effective knowledge-sharing. Today’s citizens are well educated, confident and more outspoken than those of previous generations. Many show a high level of social engagement and wish to play an active role in addressing social challenges.

People who have had some contact with the healthcare field, for example, may become involved in initiatives intended to improve the quality of care services, perhaps some small-scale project with a focus on individual contact. Private sector companies and organizations such as schools and housing associations are also active in social projects. In education, we see various projects with a view to developing new approaches which will prepare children for the future. This type of initiative often calls upon – and receives – government support.

Xenia The Netherlands’ first youth hospice in Leiden

Xenia, located in the centre of Leiden, is the Netherlands’ first hospice specifically for young people aged between 16 and 35. It provides palliative care for terminal patients and accommodates up to six guests at any one time. The design requirements for the hospice were based on the wishes of the target group. Located in the city centre, where many students and young people live, the building forms part of a vibrant community. The neighbourhood also benefits because a neglected public space has been upgraded and given a new function. The hospice is the brainchild of nurse Jacqueline Bouts, who wished to rectify what she saw as a serious omission in care services. The project has won both the Hedy d’Ancona Prize for excellent architecture in the health sector and the Golden Pyramid Award 2016.

Xenia zorghospice in Leiden.
Xenia hospice in the city of Leiden.
Photo: Frank Hanswijk.

There is a dual development. On the one hand, government has taken a step back. The ‘top-down’ management approach is out of favour. On the other, society itself has demanded greater influence. Individuals and civil society organizations are becoming ever more outspoken, creative and adept at finding ways in which to assume responsibility for certain issues. The challenge for the government is to accept the additional knowledge, expertise and manpower as a means of arriving at better solutions rather than treating external parties as unwelcome meddlers or competitors. It is a challenge to which the government has successfully risen with new forms of participation and partnership. The new Environmental Planning Act represents a further and very significant step in this direction.

The new situation is one in which public sector authorities form partnerships with non-governmental actors such as companies, societal organizations and individuals. The partners work together to develop solutions to issues which are relevant to the physical environment: the setting in which the non-governmental partners live or work. Each partner has a specific relationship with that setting and each partner has valuable knowledge and expertise to support integrated solutions that are likely to attract broad support.

The process of working on the physical environment in this type of partnership would be considerably more difficult, if not impossible, without modern information technology. Digital resources continue to develop and already offer access to a huge body of information and ‘big data’. It is now possible to find and share that information quickly and effectively. Information technology also provides a platform for cooperation and the exchange of ideas.

Industrial park Kleefse Waard Winner of the Golden Pyramid 2015

Kleefse Waard in Arnhem is a reference project for the redevelopment of obsolescent industrial sites. Developers Schipper Bosch saw the potential in the ninety-hectare industrial area, formerly occupied by chemicals concern AkzoNobel. Schipper Bosch asked architects West 8 to produce a design which would restore cohesion to the now-fragmented area.
The existing buildings were subject to careful evaluation. Those with any cultural-historical value were upgraded to meet modern sustainability requirements while retaining their historical character. The commissioning client has managed to transform an obsolescent complex into a vibrant business community which contributes to a sustainable world. The project was not confined to spatial interventions: various collective amenities and activities have also been added. Rental revenue will be reinvested in further facilities. Kleefse Waard is winner of the Golden Pyramid 2015, the national award for inspirational project commissioning.

Developments are sometimes desirable further to the national vision and strategy, but are not fully in keeping with local interests. One example is the reception of refugees. Local authorities are expected to provide appropriate housing. In this type of situation, it is important for the public sector to seek fruitful cooperation with other partners. It then becomes possible to explore (spatial) alternatives whereupon new opportunities may present themselves.

1.3 Legislation is changing

The new Environmental Planning Act (Omgevingswet) simplifies the complex system of environmental and planning legislation currently in place, and does so in a manner which is appropriate to the new societal relationships. It is due to come into effect in 2019, and combines all current legislation, regulations, directives and other statutory instruments governing the physical environment. The Environmental Planning Act has two main objectives The first is to establish and maintain a healthy physical environment of high quality, in every sense of the term. The second is to ensure the effective management, use and development of the physical environment in support of the societal functions. The Act takes the dynamic nature of society’s requirements into account and provides the flexibility needed to address those aspects of the essential transitions which not yet fully understood.

The Environmental Planning Act offers non-governmental actors greater opportunity to claim responsibility for certain issues. It is ‘invitational’ in nature whereby the authorities will take a positive view of any spatial initiative, provided it meets certain basic conditions. This approach marks a radical departure from the current ‘permit culture’, in which practically everything is prohibited unless and until permission is obtained.

Government authorities at all levels – central, provincial and local – are required to produce a development (or ‘zoning’) plan for the area under their responsibility. Local authorities (municipalities) are expected to produce an integrated area plan to supersede the existing zoning plans, with their focus on designated usage. Although expected to act as partners in exploring possible solutions, the public sector bodies will also retain their role as ‘competent authority’, responsible for assessing proposals to determine whether they are appropriate to the long-term vision and values of the zoning plans. The manner in which the proposals are to be implemented will then be determined in discussion with the relevant stakeholders.

The Environmental Planning Act adopts a different approach to governance, based on cooperation and the bringing together of the knowledge and strengths available within society. The trust which the government places in society is matched by that society’s acceptance of responsibility. If this cultural shift is to be implemented effectively, all parties must develop and adopt new working structures, as well as new knowledge and skills.

This approach is far more appropriate to the manner in which we wish to pursue physical development. In the past, planning worked to a fixed horizon. A target situation was defined all efforts focused on the attainment of that result as quickly as possible. The ‘Vinex’ urban expansion programme announced in 1991 is a good example. In the intervening decades, the processes of urbanization and densification have greatly changed the spatial structure, whereby we must now focus on transformation rather than expansion. This calls for a very different approach. We must implement a continuous, adaptive process which does not have a fixed end point but can be adjusted ‘on the fly’. Spatial developments will be successive rather than simultaneous, and they will be complementary. This approach allows lessons to be learned and choices to be made on the basis of experience or new insights.

What is needed to ensure good environmental quality?

2 What is needed to ensure good environmental quality?

To create and maintain a safe, sustainable and attractive physical environment, we must observe certain key principles. The first requirement is a cross-sectoral approach based on an integrated vision of all spatial issues in combination. The transition challenges are generally very complex and are closely interrelated. Effective solutions call for the input of various disciplines, sectors and stakeholders. Every spatial task is different. Compare a vacant industrial site on the outskirts of the city to one in the city centre: there is no standard ‘one size fits all’ solution. The second requirement is therefore a ‘customized’, multidisciplinary approach. Complex spatial issues demand a very broad package of skills and resources. The professional skills of the spatial planner must be complemented by legal and financial expertise, and by knowledge of energy systems, cultural heritage, care services, social participation and many other specialist disciplines.

2.1 A cross-sectoral, integrated approach

While the transitions are very diverse in many ways, they also have certain features in common. Almost all will be seen at various spatial levels of scale. The energy transition, for example, plays out at the global and the national level, but also at that of the individual household contemplating whether to install solar panels. The transitions also take place within several sectors simultaneously. All rely to some extent on technology, financing, public support and legislation. Spatial development demands an approach which does justice to this multi-levelled complexity.

A cross-sectoral approach offers the best possibility of addressing the complex transition issues in a cohesive manner. It will enable us to combine knowledge and expertise effectively, and to make decisions which are equally applicable within various sectors. The preferred solutions with regard to energy, water and mobility, for example, will depend on the spatial provisions we wish to make for functions such as housing, commerce, employment opportunity, care services and recreation. Addressing the transition issues in combination will result in robust, healthy and sustainable solutions. Moreover, the integrated approach at the local and regional level can be directly linked to a strong strategic approach at the national and international level.

De verkeerssituatie rond de A6 bij Almere.
Example of a complex spatial problem. Here the traffic situation around the A6 motorway near the city of Almere
Photo: Rijkswaterstaat.

Examples of complex spatial issues which demand a cross-sectoral and integrated approach include Schiphol Amsterdam Airport, the Markermeer lake, and the ‘earthquake zone’ in Groningen. Spatial developments in and around Schiphol must take into account national economic interests and those of the international aviation sector, as well as local interests such as housing, environmental quality and ‘liveability’. Around the Markermeer lake, the interests of nature conservation must be considered alongside those of accessibility (the Almere-Amsterdam route), flood safety and fresh water provision. In Groningen, the key interests are energy security, government finances and the safety of the local population, but attention must also be devoted to the prevention of social and financial segregation between the urban and rural areas.

2.2 Customized solutions

The development of the physical environment brings both challenges and opportunities. All are found within a unique situation with specific conditions and a specific group of actors. The more numerous the conditions or actors, the less likely it is that a ‘standard’ solution exists. A customized approach must be developed and applied. The location is often a key factor. Stakeholders might include not only government authorities, investors, designers and contractors, but also schools, healthcare facilities and organizations such as neighbourhood associations. All are motivated by a sense of connection with the location and by the possibilities for improvement they see.

To achieve the desired quality within the physical environment is often a case of patience and perseverance. Changes do not happen overnight. The long-term involvement of the same group of stakeholders gives rise to an ongoing process within which lessons can be learned from experiences and interim results. The ‘blueprint’ approach with its fixed target situation must give way to a continuous, adaptive methodology.

DTO Department for Temporary Planning

The adaptive approach to spatial planning is exemplified by the DTO project in Arnhem. DTO is a platform set up by engaged residents to promote temporary spatial initiatives. If a building or site is vacant, perhaps due to the economic crisis, DTO will attempt to find an alternative use until a buyer or permanent tenant comes forward. The temporary use is seen as transition phase which may or may not reveal further opportunities for development. Failures and disappointments are accepted as lessons. They help all concerned to identify new directions. There is process of knowledge building which centres around ‘middle-up-down’ spatial projects, i.e. those undertaken in partnership between local government, the private sector, cultural organizations, professionals and individual members of the public in pursuit of common interests. DTO has produced a multimedia ‘transition map’ showing all creative initiatives and available locations in Arnhem, together with information about ownership arrangements, stakeholders and project partners. This helps to match supply to demand.

Het aardvarken van kunstenaar Florentijn Hofman.
At the initiative of DTO the Bartok park was created on a neglected area in the city of Arnhem with the Aardvark statue of artist Florentijn Hofman.
Photo: DTO.

The transition map produced by DTO in Arnhem is a good example of co-creation in action: a process which offers the opportunity to form alliances around knowledge, ideas, activities and funding. Interested parties, including private sector companies, other organizations and private individuals, can then meet to thrash out the details.
However, an approach involving cooperation between various sectors and actors is not always in keeping with the way in which government authorities have traditionally operated, and could even be in contravention of certain rules or guidelines. It is important that all actors adopt an open, engaged and cooperative stance towards each other. This may require deliberate effort.

The top-down relationship between government and society, in which the former relies on legislation to impose and enforce restrictions, is now giving way to a situation in which the government facilitates, encourages and participates. Although the government is not necessarily ‘in charge’ of day-to-day practical matters, it does retain the role of competent authority and will establish the framework within which the stakeholders are expected to work, and will ensure that they do so. The arrangement gives rise to various forms of partnership between the government and the public. This is the ‘energetic society’ at work.

M-LAB Urban (re) development of Maastricht

The ‘Maastricht-LAB’ (M-LAB) is an example of an approach in which a municipal authority has consciously adopted new planning and design paradigms. M-LAB was set up in 2012 to give a fillip to the urban (re-) development of Maastricht, recognizing that existing instruments were no longer in keeping with the modern situation. Both demographic and economic growth have slowed. Local residents and non-governmental organizations now wish to have more say in the design and upkeep of their living environment. The M-LAB allows all stakeholders to seek new forms of urban development. It provides a platform for cooperation and co-creation involving local partners who are united in an open network known as the ‘Stadmakers’ (City Makers).

2.3 Resources and skills

Cooperation in pursuit of good spatial design calls for certain skills and resources. There must be legal and financial expertise. The process requires an understanding of the concepts which underpin the modernization of the healthcare, education and cultural sectors. There must be new forms of knowledge development and dissemination (such as open data), expertise in communication and – of course – in spatial design.

Scholenbouwatlas & ScholenbouwwaaierCommunication tool for construction or renovation of schools

The Scholenbouwatlas (‘School construction atlas’) is a handbook and website for those involved in the construction or modernization of (primary) schools and child care facilities. It offers commissioning clients – usually a local authority working alongside a school management board – advice on technical matters, process management and participation: how to engage parents and students. The handbook can be used to identify the approach which will best meet the ambitions and objectives. It lists the aspects to be taken into consideration, and offers a large number of inspiring best practice examples arranged under relevant headings such as education, childcare, and the ‘school as community resource’ concept.

A separate website - encourages discussion of the requirements for a school building, thus enhancing the quality of the finished product. It is a communication resource which supports commissioning clients and end users in the process of designing, constructing or renovating school buildings.

Closer cooperation between government and the citizen calls for all necessary information to be made available. Effective communication is essential, as is clear and timely information. It is important that all stakeholders understand the opportunities that legislation provides. The introduction of the new Environmental Planning Act will therefore be accompanied by a digital information system (the Laan van de Leefomgeving) which supports decision-making in all aspects of the physical environment. The partners involved in projects are expected to adopt an open, transparent approach. They must share knowledge with each other.

If a large number of disparate stakeholders are working together, it is important to have a common language. Different disciplines tend to use different terminology. Experts in areas such as spatial planning, sociology, heritage, sustainability and finances must be able to understand each other, and to make themselves understood to laypersons. Mutual understanding cannot be taken for granted. Design can help to unify the various ideas and impressions to arrive at a common vision.

Study of the water defence system in the Alblasserwaard In commission of The Rivierenland Water Management and the Board of Government Advisers

A good example of a project in which diverse design questions and disciplines meet is the study of the water defence system for the Alblasserwaard region, a peat landscape which is subject to gradual compaction and subsidence. The Rivierenland Water Management Authority and the Board of Government Advisers commissioned LOLA Landscape Architects to examine ways in which to strengthen the water infrastructure, which entails raising the level of banks and quays. The study has adopted an integrated approach which devotes attention to design and technology, ecology, sustainable water management, agriculture and recreational usage. The overall landscaping concept draws its inspiration from the important cultural-historical features of the waterways and their surroundings.

The strength of design

3 The strength of design

Design is more than just a means to arrive at a product such as a building, interior or bridge. It is a methodology: a specific way of thinking and working. Today’s designers are trained to include various economic, social and spatial considerations in the design process. Their professional expertise enables them to visualize and to interconnect. In any spatial development project, designers define and refine the questions and challenges before applying their knowledge and ideas to arrive at solutions. They do not do so in isolation but in partnership with others. Every spatial project has a commissioning client, for example. This could be a public sector authority, or perhaps a housing corporation, a health care institution, a company, a school board of management or a collective of private citizens. A good client appreciates the value of design and takes advantage of the designer’s expertise at the earliest possible stage. It is the combination of effective commissioning and professional design that produces the best results. This is what we mean by ‘the strength of design’.

3.1 3.1 Design combines creativity, knowledge, requirements and interests

Spatial design is traditionally divided into the subdisciplines of architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture and interior design. In recent decades, the dividing lines between these subdisciplines have become less distinct. The methodology of spatial design provides a good instrument with which to adopt a fully integrated approach to the physical environment.

The designer’s ability to visualize is an important asset in any spatial planning process which demands an exploration of possibilities and interests. The designer will translate knowledge, insights and ideas to arrive at images which are accessible and readily understood by stakeholders of various backgrounds. The process of creating concrete, visual scenarios brings the potential solutions clearly into view, together with the wider consequences of each choice.

Stichting Mevrouw Meijer transformation and revitalization of existing school buildings

Stichting Mevrouw Meijer is a non-profit research consultancy concerned with the transformation and revitalization of existing school buildings. The quality of a school is a matter of great social and societal importance. The physical environment of the school building is important because it is here that children spend a large proportion of their formative years. Mevrouw Meijer organised the revitalization of numerous school buildings, creating an appropriate educational environment at lower cost than the construction of new premises. To date, a total of 28 architects have been involved in the projects.
Stichting Mevrouw Meijer and its partners – designers and commissioning clients such as local authorities and school boards – have demonstrated a highly effective approach to the renovation and transformation of school buildings which date from the post-war reconstruction period (1950-1970) or which were built as part of the major urban expansions of the 1970s and 1980s. The approach is based on an entirely new vision which eschews the traditional solution of demolition and replacement to rediscover the value of existing buildings.

The design process offers the parties involved in spatial development a basis on which to make joint decisions. Each step may reveal new questions or may prompt a reassessment of the original terms of reference. Design reveals the consequences of each of the possible choices. It helps to define the task at hand and it allows a thorough examination of the interrelationships between the issues and sectors. It clarifies how the various wishes and ideas relate to each other, and it helps to penetrate the complexity and uncertainty which accompany most spatial development projects today.

There are various points in the process at which spatial design plays a part. In the initial phase, it serves to clarify the threats and opportunities that exist and supports open dialogue between the various stakeholders. At this stage, design helps to take stock of requirements, explore opportunities and structure an appropriate response. In later stages, the contribution of design is more concerned with the development of alternative perspectives and strategies. In the final phase, design illustrates the chosen solution, providing appealing images which clearly demonstrate how the design question can be answered.

Future Urban Regions Academies of Architecture

The Department of Future Urban Regions (FUR) of the Academies of Architecture has produced a film which shows the linear process of formulating the terms of reference, selecting a strategy, developing the idea to form a concept, then implementing the project to arrive at a design product which is then introduced onto the market. The film also looks at the role and contribution of each of the various participants in this process.

Future Urban Regions
The way of formulating the task, choosing a strategy, working on an idea, a concept, a project, a design product and market introduction.

If they are to make a valid contribution based on their specific skills and expertise, designers must understand the dynamic processes involved in the development and management of the physical environment. It is also important that they are open to the ideas and interests of the commissioning client and all other stakeholders, whether businesses, schools, health care organizations or the general public. Only then can the spatial design function effectively as an instrument which addresses complex spatial issues. Only then does the ‘strength of design’ come into its own.

3.2 Professional design and effective commissioning

Design can only fulfil its function if the commissioning client allows it to do so and facilitates the process. The client may be a government authority, a housing corporation, a healthcare institution, a company, a school board of management or a collective of private individuals. The good client acknowledges the value of design and calls upon its contribution at the earliest possible stage of the process. Effective commissioning in combination with professional design will produce the best possible results.

Effective commissioning demands a broad outlook and an awareness of the transition issues which are present in all sectors and at all levels of scale. Clients must realize how valuable the input of private sector companies, organizations, experts and the general public can be, and must be willing to allow these parties to contribute. This calls for a strong vision, together with the appropriate instruments and resources such as information and impartial advice.

Rebuild by Design Dutch Approach

The Netherlands has an international reputation for design and the ‘Dutch Approach’ is becoming an increasingly important export product. This term refers to the multidisciplinary approach which Dutch designers adopt in pursuit of solutions. An example of its international appeal is the ‘Rebuild by Design’ programme. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy struck the eastern seaboard of the USA causing widespread flooding and serious damage. Tens of thousands of homes became uninhabitable. President Obama set up a taskforce to increase the resilience of the region and protect it against further flooding. The Netherlands was invited to take part. The ‘water envoy’ Henk Ovink instigated a multidisciplinary research and design programme to arrive at innovative solutions. The programme was based on an integrated design approach in which both experts and local communities were invited to suggest solutions in response to the rising sea level. Over five hundred neighbourhood groups and NGOs, 181 government departments and ten design teams were involved. Dutch water management knowledge is held in high regard. Sharing it with the Americans resulted in a two-way exchange whereby we too gained new insights.

Towards a new design tradition

4 Towards a new design-tradition

The Netherlands has a strong tradition in spatial design. However, the developments of recent decades have placed that tradition under pressure. As a result of various factors, not least the economic crisis, there are fewer clients with the financial resources needed to fund large-scale projects. Much of the design expertise previously found within local authorities has disappeared. Large, high-value ‘megaprojects’ are a thing of the past. The nature of the spatial development requirement has changed and the public sector’s role as commissioning client is now more complex. Responsibility has been devolved to the lower levels of government; rigid planning has given way to organic growth and custom solutions. Design has had to adapt to this new situation. Recent years have produced numerous inspiring examples of projects in which design has played a key role in answering the spatial development challenges. Designers have strengthened their own position through further specialization and by applying their expertise and skills in new, innovative ways. Government departments and other large clients have come to acknowledge the importance of design. Nevertheless, the societal added value of design and design-based research has yet to be fully exploited. It is therefore crucial to continue supporting the development of new methods and forms of professionalism, and to share best practice examples as widely as possible.

4.1 The Netherlands has a strong design tradition

An essential feature of the Dutch design tradition is the integrated approach in which design, technology and functionality come together in a natural way. In terms of spatial design, we see this integration in the combination of design and civil engineering. The Netherlands is very much a man-made country. It has a spatial system of carefully designed landscapes interspersed with urban and semi-rural settlements. Intelligent water management systems protect against flooding while also creating an attractive cultural landscape of dykes, canals, lakes and associated structures, not forgetting the famous windmills. Nothing has been left to chance: functions such as housing, mobility and landscaping have been subject to careful planning. The Netherlands represents the interaction of design decisions in various sectors and disciplines, each building on what has gone before.

Verkavelingskaart Noordoostpolder 1948
Designing the Netherlands: Subdivison plan of the Noordoostpolder, 1948.

The Dutch regard the process of designing the physical environment as an important cultural enterprise. It is a task which has been approached in a planned and very systematic manner, especially since the Second World War, and which has extended across all levels of scale. The emergence of the welfare state and the need for post-ware reconstruction resulted in an impressive construction programme, with large-scale modifications to the landscape and infrastructure. New machinery and prefabricated structures made mass production possible. A new design philosophy and an aesthetic code appropriate to large-scale serial production then emerged.

For the Dutch designer, it is second nature to consider the relationships between the urban area, water and the landscape, and to take advantage of all the opportunities that the physical environment presents. In the Netherlands, the design process takes place within an interdisciplinary context in which designers, engineers and administrators work together. Now that central government has devolved greater responsibility to lower authorities and society itself, the cooperation has extended to include societal organizations, independent experts, private sector companies and engaged citizens. The result is a culture of development, design, innovation and investment which has further strengthened our international reputation.

Since 1991, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment (I&M) and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) have been jointly responsible for central government’s input in the realms of architecture and spatial design. Both disciplines are essential to the responsible structuring of the physical environment and to the maintenance of cultural amenities which enjoy an appropriate national and international reputation. Through its cultural policy, the Ministry of OCW promotes artistic quality, talent development, experiment, renewal and internationalization. It also oversees the cohesion between design and cultural heritage. The Ministry of I&M’s involvement has always been linked to formal policy and to the system responsibility for the physical environment.

Woningbouw in Nagele, 1958.
Housing construction in Nagele, 1958.
Photo: Nieuw Land; RIJP, J.U. Potuyt.
The Noordoostpolder A completely designed landscape of the twentieth century

The Netherlands has a centuries-old tradition of empolderment, drainage and land reclamation. The twentieth century saw several large-scale projects, made possible by the new technology of the era. The Noordoostpolder, covering some 460 square kilometres, was the first of the four planned IJsselmeer polders. Work on raising the dykes began in 1937 and drainage was completed in 1942. The Noordoostpolder is a unique example of an entirely man-made landscape. Even the villages it contains are spaced at regular intervals from each other and from the existing town of Emmeloord. Perhaps the most interesting village is Nagele, where prominent architects such as Van Eesteren, Rietveld and Van Eyck were invited to put their planning ideals into practice during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. The polder and its villages exemplify the Dutch design tradition, for which reason Noordoostpolder has been designated an area of national cultural-historical importance.

4.2 A new design practice

The Netherlands is emerging from the economic crisis. There has been some recovery in construction volume. At the same time, however, vacancy rates are high and seem likely to remain so. Perhaps actors in the real estate sector were hoping to revert to the pre-crisis situation: “business as usual”. This is not possible because the world has changed irrevocably. Society has different wishes and requirements. There is a new division of roles and responsibilities.

Legislation governing the physical environment is also changing, with the emphasis shifting from development and urban expansion to the redevelopment and revitalization of the existing built area. While commissioning clients used to be drawn almost exclusively from the public, semi-public or private sectors, we now see a very broad and diverse field. Alongside the institutional and commercial clients there are numerous partnerships and coalitions of companies, organizations and individuals, many of whom have a direct personal interest in finding better, more appropriate solutions within the physical environment.

Public sector commissioning is becoming ever more complex. Local and regional authorities must contend with far-reaching changes to the arena in which they operate. They also face a large number of social and spatial challenges which must be addressed alongside the various transition issues. Under the new Environmental Planning Act, the authorities assume responsibility for implementing an integrated and participative system of spatial development. Effective spatial design can help them to navigate the many complex and multi-layered issues. In recent years, however, specific design knowledge and expertise has not been well maintained. Cutbacks and changing responsibilities have led to the loss of much design knowledge and expertise, particularly at local authority level. As a result, public sector commissioning clients are less able to fulfil their role effectively. There is often a somewhat limited impression of what good design actually is and what possibilities it creates, which means that important opportunities are being missed.

Increasingly, tendering procedures are now based on integrated contract forms. Design is no longer a separate service or area of expertise, but forms part of a multidisciplinary package in response to market demand. ‘Design, Build, Finance, Maintain and Operate’ (DBFMO) constructions are now relatively common, and some contracts also include redevelopment options in the distant future as part of the ‘package deal’.

The new circumstances and new relationships demand a different working method on the part of both the commissioning client and the designer. The contours of a new commissioning practice are beginning to form, and within those contours are opportunities for a modern and effective form of professional design practice.

Given the greatly expanded field of physical development, commissioning clients must allow opportunities for a greater number of actors to participate. They must listen to various ideas and perspectives, and they must devote due attention to design. For its part, the design sector is adapting to the new relationships and is making concerted efforts to recover from the heavy blows that were dealt by the economic crisis. Increasingly, designers are proactively stepping into a new role. They are developing new specializations and deliberately taking a different position within the design process as a whole. Prominent examples of new project forms in which design is used as a key instrument are needed in order to demonstrate these qualities effectively.

Designers are now better equipped to use their expertise and resources to support the societal agendas and the interactive planning processes. On the one hand, they have a good general training which devotes attention to broad societal developments as well as area-specific issues. On the other, they have acquired the skills needed to operate within a very broad field with its changing roles and positions. It is not uncommon for designers to invite the participation of new players, to actively explore different perspectives, or to forge new alliances. Such interventions undoubtedly serve to enhance quality within projects.

4.3 Inspiring examples should be upscaled

Experiments testing new, integrated approaches to physical planning are ongoing in various parts of the Netherlands. Some are spontaneous initiatives set up by alliances, designers or public sector bodies, while others are run under the auspices of organizations such as Architectuur Lokaal, the Creative Industries Fund NL or the IABR project ateliers.

Ambachtsschool Revisited Creative Industries Fund NL

The project ‘Ambachtsschool Revisited’ (Craft School Revisited) is supported by the Creative Industries Fund NL. Through design-based research, it aims to arrive at alternative approaches which will make professional education in the Netherlands more relevant and more attractive. “Many of the training institutes at intermediate level find it extremely difficult to recruit design students,” says Eireen Schreurs of Suboffice Architects, a participant in the research project. “To date, both the schools and the government have been rather introspective and reserved. To remedy this, we have collected best practice examples from other countries and are now adapting their ideas to arrive at something that will truly inspire the school boards.
Five models are being developed in response to the challenge of strengthening connections between the schools, the professional field and society at large. Each model draws on the best features of the international examples. We have looked at the position within the local community, the connections and partnerships which the school would be able to make, and the appropriate architecture. We have given each model a name. There is the ‘Guild Hall’, in which the professional federations play a prominent role, the ‘Knowledge Centre’, whereby knowledge of actual production is linked to the courses in various professional disciplines, the ‘Shop School’, which applies various retail concepts to the educational setting, ‘the Company School’, in which the school is also a practical training centre with work experience provided by one or more external companies, and the ‘Neighbourhood School’, which has strong links with the local community.

Commissioning clients now devote greater attention to the value of good design and are willing to support experiments. Innovative designers can adopt a specialist profile as a developing designer, a building designer, a technical specialist, a coordinator within co-creative working processes, or as a visionary who identifies future challenges and responses. These profiles are not clearly delineated domains but a set of ‘development directions’, all with the design approach as the common denominator. The trend is being supported by various parties, including the Faculty of Architecture at Delft University of Technology and the representative organ of the architectural profession, the Branchevereniging voor Nederlandse Architectenbureaus (BNA).

Buiksloterham Amsterdam
Public meeting Buiksloterham Amsterdam.
Photo: DELVA Landscape Architects.
Buiksloterham Modern urban regeneration

Buiksloterham, a former docklands district of Amsterdam, is a prime example of modern urban regeneration. Land has been designated for self-build projects as well as social housing and private market developments. Particular attention is being devoted to new working practices, such as the home practice or craft workshop, and other means to address individual requirements. Since 2011, the district has provided a convincing example of how private self-build initiatives can support urban regeneration. It is clearly worthwhile to involve commissioning clients with a strong pioneering mentality and to give them free rein (or at least as free as possible). The project has spawned much useful knowledge and experience in several areas, including expectation management for potential buyers, risk reduction and knowledge-sharing. The lessons learned can be applied at other locations. In early 2015, various parties signed the ‘Circular Buiksloterham Manifesto’ under which the district becomes a ‘living lab’ for experiment, research and innovation in the field of renewable energy and closed cycles.

Examples illustrate the strength of design in practice and how it can help to enhance the quality of the physical environment. They provide an understanding of the factors which determine the success of new project forms, and the role that design itself plays. They also provide inspiration for new approaches which break away from the conventional chain of commissioning client, designer, contractor and user. If spatial development is to benefit, it is important that the new working approaches are given full support and that the best practices they reveal are widely disseminated. Forward-looking commissioning clients and designers should implement these new working methods in practice, thus creating a flywheel effect.

Cleantech project region Cities of Apeldoorn, Deventer and Zutphen

In the ‘Cleantech’ project region (a triangle bounded by the cities of Apeldoorn, Deventer and Zutphen) various companies, educational institutes and public sector authorities have joined forces with a view to achieving energy neutrality by the year 2030. They are doing so in response to a design competition opened by the Eo Wijers Foundation.
The CleanTechLab has been established to fast-track the energy transition in this region. The four teams participating in the competition include representatives of provincial and local authorities, knowledge partners, businesses and local residents. They have been asked to arrive at a spatial design which will not only make the transition to renewable energy possible, but will facilitate and accelerate that transition, thus boosting the economic strength and competitive ability of the region. The design consultancies taking part have sought to coordinate their ideas with ongoing plans and projects. Key themes for the CleanTechLab include fiscal instruments to support the energy transition, new spatial typologies, adept use of the new Environmental Planning Act, and support for societal initiatives.


Programme 2017 - 2020

1 Programme
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!

1.1 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.

1.2 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.

1.3 Ten programme components

  1. 1 Atelier X

    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.

  2. 2 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.

  3. 3 O-team

    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.

  4. 4 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.

  5. 5 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.

  6. 6 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.

  7. 7 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.

  8. 8 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.

  9. 9 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.

  10. 10 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.

1.4 Budget allocation 2017-2020

Programme components IenM OCW BZK EZ Total
1. Atelier X 918       918
2. Board of Government Advisers 195
75 * 135 540
3. O-team 475       475
4. IABR project ateliers 400       400
5. Innovative Forms of Commissioning 350 150     500
6. Care and School Construction   700     700
7. Design and Practice 175       175
8. Design and Government 100 50     150
9. Commissioning and Design 190       190
10. Golden Pyramid Award 40
50 50   180
Action Agenda Online Platform 75 75     150

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.

Budget articles 2017 2018 2019 2020
IenM article 13(U01010003) 2.920 2.919 2.918 2.919
  1IF 18.08 135 135 135 135
  2artikel 13(U03010001) 40 40 40 40
OCW article 14 1.100 1.100 1.100 1.100