Digital, Virtual, and Physical

Physical Public Space X Virtual Space

Urban designers and landscape architects observe physical public spaces as spaces that are able to accommodate accidental meetings, reveal places’ identity, provide impulsive on-the-spot choices, and allow human-nature interaction through wind or sunshine. However, the recent crisis unfolds the intertwining between physical public space and virtual space. During two days, we focus on the shift of the planner’s outlook on physical public space and virtual space.

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Bits of Public Space 3.0: Trailer, published by Polis on YouTube
Video credits: Ioanna Kokkona

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Domestic Public Space

If the current period teaches us, as colleagues, anything explicitly, it is that we must take account of a changed way of thinking on public space and housing. This shift presents us with a major challenge when it comes to further densification of the city. The existing urban fabric needs revision, even in areas where there is no increase in density. Public space is becoming more homely, and houses are becoming workplaces, so partly more public. We will pay more attention to the immediate living environment: the space in the vicinity.

Read the article in Dutch:
Harteveld, Maurice (2020, October) Huiselijke Openbare Ruimte. Ontwerpen aan Plekken Nabij. In: Ruimte + Wonen. #3/2020 Thema Publieke Ruimte, 101e Jaargang, Nummer 3, October 2020, pp. 72-79

Ruimte + Wonen is a Dutch magazine and knowledge network for spatial professionals and housing experts, originated from the magazines S+RO and Tijdschrift voor de Volkshuisvesting. Go to ‘Ruimte + Wonen’ membership

Among Academic Avatars


The opening of another academic year, but – in 2020 – Delft students, academics, and others met in a replica virtual campus while searching for the TU Delft flames in a game.

Mapping Maritime Mindsets: Mental Maps

Imagine: You are asked to draw a port city from memory. What would you put on paper? Do you think of harbours? Water, docks, cargo, moving loads, and ships? If your drawing shows these elements, don’t be surprised. Sixty-five graduate students also took on the challenge. In answering: “draw the port city of Rotterdam by mind”, the drawings of the participants (fig.1) displayed exactly the above features. Of course, this makes sense. A port just happens to be a place on the water in which ships shelter and dock to (un)load cargo and/or passengers. A harbour is a sheltered place too, and in its nautical meaning, it is a near-synonym for sheltered water, in which ships may dock, especially again for (un)loading. So, all the above linguistic lemmas are there and all these are connected to imaginable objects.

Keep reading on Port City Futures | Leiden•Delft•Erasmus

Ethical and Social Values in COVID-times

Design for Values in Times of COVID19
Creating Responsible Innovations respecting Ethical and Social Values

The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting people and businesses hard. The attempt to protect people from this life-threatening disease has changed how we perceive the role of governments, businesses, and all other stakeholders in providing safe housing, sanitation, workplaces, and safe public space to name a few. These are issues architecture, urban design, and spatial planning must address.
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Public Space under COVID-19

TU Delft Joins ‘2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic’

Social distance dictated by COVID-19 health emergency affects access to public space and with it creating a range of impacts on different levels. While global lockdown is destabilizing economy and challenging country leaders, at the human level the pandemic is generating isolation and loneliness, with a significant raise of helplessness and fear. Everyone is asked to stay home and rearrange daily routines and work activities in indoor domestic spaces, looking at the world from behind a window. People are dying alone, numbers are increasingly high. Outdoor physical activities are no longer allowed. Many governments seem to lack proper strategies to manage the risk of massive contagion. In the Global South the poor living in informal settlements have scarce access to water, washing hands could be dangerously impossible.

What is the future of public space? How can we face this unprecedented emergency and get prepared to its consequences, in specific regard to health disparity? Will public space restrictions stay in place after recovering from the pandemic?
Is there something we can do now all, together? Delft University of Technology, a worldwide recognised leader in the field of urban design and public space, unites with more than twenty universities globally in the ‘2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic’ initiative. DDfV researcher Maurice Harteveld explains:

“We observe differences in behaviour in public space under the current circumstances. Differences that relate to different societal and personal priorities based on different social and personal values. Altered patterns in our cities are updating the way human behaviour informs urban design, hence the design of public space, but foremost the emerging differentiation in values effect in the design choices we are making in the near future.”

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Courses run Online On-Distance

In-class on-campus settings have been cancelled due to the situation induced by the COVID-19 virus. Participants of the courses have been distributed over a wide variety of time zones (from -11h to +8h). As a consequence, the graduate course on ‘People, Movement & Public Space’ and graduate design studios on ‘Architecture and Urban Design’ and ‘The City of the Future’ run fully online and on-distance for its 100 registred Delft students and exchange students. This includes an on-demand video lecture series and small weekly assignments that go along. Remote education includes sharing info, presentations, student peer-review, and, in the studio, tutorials, workshops and whiteboard sessions.

The course on ‘People, Movement & Public Space’ provides an overview of vested theories and cutting edge applied research on people’s movement, urban vitality, and public space. This includes seminal works and continues by updating understanding by today’s challenges. The role of citizens and designers in shaping vibrant urban public space is explored through readings, film, and active discussions among participants. The course material, provided in a virtual learning environment, comes alive through active discussions and the direct application of theories in analysing real urban settings.

In the interdisciplinary Master’s design studios, participants discuss and overlap their updates and translate this to urban analytical approaches in a group setting. These approaches are presented to peers and a broad team of interdisciplinary supervisors at least twice a week. The collaborate focus is particularly on the consequences of urbanisation for the major foundations of the city of the future – urban infrastructure and public space –, and with this focus, the ultimate aim is to envision an illustrative and inherently experimental design within the larger set of visions produced by fellow students. In these designs, students and staff are interested on one hand to the urban intervention in the built environment and its effect on architecture, and on the other hand to the architectural treatment of the city and its effect on urban design.

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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Architectural and Urban Design for Values

In a Dies Satellite Event celebrating the 178th anniversary of the TU Delft, the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment introduces their collaborative research on values to a wider audience, as it is present and emerging within its rich set of disciplines, including architectural and urban design, building technology, process management, and geo-information science. The faculty answers on the questions: How to deal with value dynamics when designing for values? How can we successfully operationalise values to inform design decisions, whilst anticipating possible value changes? How does the theory apply to specific application areas, such as architecture and urban design?
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Architecture in Urban Change

Designers are questioning what architecture of relevance could face ongoing change over a longer period in today’s most dynamic urban areas. Of course, answers are always specific and the search on how to respond to constantly changing urban conditions may be the only issue that is shared in all cases. Yet, still, there must be more commonalities in the wide range of answers. The set of design propositions as presented at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Versailles (ENSA-V) underlines this, while designs display a few recognisable approaches. Projects put the emphasis on the importance of intervening at strategic locations, of programming adaptive and responsive, hence flexible, and of imagining and creating expressions that will enhance public interaction and experience over a longer period. As a guest of the school, I have the opportunity to review these thoughts and discuss emerging approaches with prof Nicolas Pham.

l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Versailles
Champ disciplinaire de Théories et Pratiques de la Conception Architecturale Urbaine (TPCAU)
5 Avenue de Sceaux, Versailles
20 December 2019, 9:30-17:30h