Creating Impact for a Better Society

At its 178th Dies Natalis celebration, the Delft University of Technology has announced to remove the boundaries between the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities to cope with big societal challenges. The energy, mobility and resource transitions, increasing urbanisation and populations, and changes in demography need convergence: the integration of sciences in order to accelerate research and generate revolutionary outcomes. Manifold and intertwined problems that come along will be solved by pooling scientific resources if we collaborate in entirely new ways. Delft University of Technology will create a network of living labs, where science and innovation can be put into practice and tested in Rotterdam. Delft is doing this together with Erasmus University Rotterdam and Leiden University, with industry and government.

Design has evolved from largely being product centred through being more user-centred to now becoming human or society centred […] Technology is never neutral, which is why we have to be aware of its implication very early on in its development, in its design phase. Today we are focussing on that particular aspect. Making design choices which do justice to our moral and social values. And, I believe this is a key element for achieving our mission ‘to create impact for a better society’.

For example, more shared and self-driving vehicles will require fewer parking spaces. That results in more public space and greenery, which in turn improves air quality and biodiversity. Moreover, vegetation can serve as water storage, and reduce heat stress due to climate change. Furthermore, if we design those public spaces to encourage walking and cycling, this will stimulate a healthy lifestyle and lead to a better quality of life.

Tim van der Hagen, rector magnificus and president of the university


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Living Labs in the City

In trans-disciplinary urban challenges, the application of ‘a living lab’ plays a central role. A pioneering model has emerged in our design of the Master programme Metropolitan Analysis, Design and Engineering. Currently, others follow this model and the idea of the urban living lab seems attractive. “It enables us to get to a feasible solution more quickly”, I am explaining in the magazine ‘Home of Innovation’. Students work with all stakeholders on a problem with lots of unanswered questions. The keyword here is ‘co-creation’: collaboration is key at all stages of learning. “No single actor can make metropoles move in a specific direction”, I’ve elaborated: “Metropolitan solutions require cooperation between knowledge experts, as well as between city, citizens and civil society.”

Read more in an interview with me by Jurjen Slump:
Living Labs play a Central Role in Master’s Degree Programme – Education: Master Programme Metropolitan Analysis, Design and Engineering, In: Home of Innovation, special January 2019, pp. 18-19

Architecture and the City

The Architecture and the City: Public Realm/Public Building research group of the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, Delft University of Technology focuses on questions regarding the mutual relationship between the city and its public realm. This is a relationship that can only be considered in socio-cultural and economic context. The idea of the public realm here refers to an intermediate ‘space’, which facilitates and mediates between different groups of inhabitants and individuals; the idea of the public realm as the space of (ex)change of ideas, opinions and beliefs of the different groups of users. Therefore, the architecture of the city and its actual qualities form the main framework of this research. Within this context urban blocks, as interface between architecture and urban design, and public buildings are seen as crucial architectural elements. Their functioning and organisation are physically, symbolically, socially and economically fundamental to the city. As such they form a domain both of architectural convention and experimentation. In terms of research and design methods architectural typology, typo-morphology and research-by-design hold a central position in our group’s approach.


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Design Sessions on Public Space

The Design Sessions on Public Space (In Dutch: Ontwerpsessies Openbare Ruimte ‘OOR 2006’) as organised in Delft from 21-23 February 2006 have been part of a series of seven workshops all over The Netherlands. The design for public space is central in all workshops. Urban designers, landscape architects and traffic designers, both students and professionals, have met and worked together. In Delft, green areas in the east of the city has been repositioned with respect to the urban public spaces and the highway A13 has been reconsidred as urban design thus a public space too. As such, interdisciplinary participants proposed improvements for the entire network, conceptually and with exemplary details in projects. Exploratory visions on the urban network of public spaces and related redesigns, connecting the different parts of the city and all their qualities, showcase a potential future for the city of Delft in refreshing and unrestrained ways!

The workshop in Delft has been a collaboration between Polis – Podium for Urbanism, Vereniging Stadswerk Nederland, the Urban Development Department of the Municipality of Delft and the chair of Urban Design at Delft University of Technology.