SPS Seminar

24 March 2018


BG West 290, Faculty of Architecture, TU Delft

Speaker: Victor Muñoz Sanz (TU Delft)

Automated Landscapes: Planning and Technology in the Port of Rotterdam


The increasing use of robotization and computer algorithms in industrial processes seem to indicate that we are heading to a future of workspaces without workers. Economists and technologists are registering the phenomenon, and offer roadmaps to guide society to the new paradigm. So far, however, little research has delved into the wider transformations that the generalized adoption of automation technologies may directly or indirectly cause in the planning and design of built environments. By looking at the recent planning history of the Maasvlakte II area in the Port of Rotterdam, this presentation will examine intersections between spatial planning, technology, and sustainability around the shift from labor-intensive industries and services to capital-intensive ones by adopting digital technologies and related platforms.

Since 2015, robotic cranes and automated guided vehicles do the work in the container terminals in Maasvlakte II, the latest expansion to the west of the port of Rotterdam. For the Rotterdam Port Authority, automation technologies were a synonym of efficiency—efficient use of land, time and energy—and therefore their implementation was integrated in the planning of Maasvlakte II and strict demands were imposed on companies aspiring to get a concession to operate there.  In turn, these companies have made of Maasvlakte II a model workplace of an automated future. In these terminals, the machines follow instructions of a Terminal Operating System, while being supervised by humans in control rooms. On the surrounding logistical landscape, physical barriers and security checkpoints separate the realm of human bodies from that of semi-autonomous machines.


The presentation will show how any radical planning vision driven by technology comes together with new challenges—in Maasvlakte II in particular labour conflicts, and the vulnerability of these infrastructural systems to cyber attacks.  In defining through planning visions how territories are managed and organized for work, new modes of spatial segregation, inclusion, and vulnerability appear, calling for developing new forms of anticipatory planning and resilience. This presentation builds on research being developed at the Department of Urbanism at TU Delft and Het Nieuwe Instituut focused on revealing full automation’s hidden spatial production and that will be presented in the Dutch pavilion in the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale.





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