Text by: REMON ROOIJ, GREGORY BRACKEN, DOMINIC STEAD, ROBERTO ROCCO

The Department of Urbanism of the TU Delft is organised in five sections: Spatial Planning & Strategy (SPS), Urban Design, Environmental Modelling, Urban Studies, and Landscape Architecture. SPS has three distinct and complementary pillars:

(i) Spatial Planning & Strategy,
(ii) Regional Design and Planning, and
(iii) International Urbanisation & Development Planning. Spatial Planning at TU Delft has an evident, but unique relationship with spa-tial design, focusing on the development and transformation of spatial form, composition, patterns, structures, and networks.

Spatial Planning, together with Design and Technology, form the key pillars to Urbanism at Delft University of Technology. This integra-tive approach to urbanism has a long history at TU Delft and makes the University’s academic profile in spatial planning highly distinctive and also highly ranked.

All over the world, cities and regions are chal-lenged by the risks and opportunities associ-ated with accelerating challenges arising from migration, climate change, the fourth industrial revolution, globalisation, rising inequality, and political instability. They face urgent ques-tions with respect to sustainable growth and transformation that can only be tackled in an interdisciplinary integrative way that promotes social, economic, and environmental sustain-ability and spatial justice. In other words, they are not only concerned with what to do (i.e. the objectives of spatial planning) but also with how to do it (i.e. processes of democratic citizen engagement and governance).

Over recent decades, spatial planning, pol-icy making and territorial governance have changed drastically. First, trends of deregulation and decentralisation have had a large impact on traditionally strong spatial planning authori-ties, such as national governments and nation-al bodies of planning. They have repositioned themselves and gotten new responsibilities, but regional and local planning authorities have had to adapt as well. Additionally, at least in the European Union, private stakeholders and civil society have been given much more room to co-create spatial plans and interven-tions with those planning authorities. Spatial planning has developed into an inter- and transdisciplinary activity, especially in ad-vanced economies.

Secondly, vision and strategy-making have become mainstream in spatial planning with an increased understanding of the complex, uncertain, networked, and dynamic nature of cities and regions. Planning for resilience and sustainability, for organic growth, for flexibil-ity, and for adaptivity means that planning has become a process of intensive interaction, negotiation, and communication between in-volved stakeholders, looking for shared visions and strategies to go forward. Such a process is helped by diverse tools and ways of approach-ing the tasks at hand, with the formulation of alternative spatial scenarios and by vision and strategy-making. These tools contribute to a new planning paradigm that focuses on com-munication and consensus-seeking in collab-orative decision-making processes. This has increased the need for urbanism-planning pro-fessionals who can lead, guide, facilitate, medi-ate, manage, and steer those processes, across a variety of spatial scales, from neighbourhood to city-region and beyond.

Thirdly, spatial planning has become a more digitised and digitally supported process in many ways. In several places, spatial planning processes are based on E-participation and innovative ways of citizen engagement. Urban (big) data and sophisticated 2D and 3D analy-sis, visualisation, modelling, and decision-mak-ing tools are providing urbanism professionals with more input on the city than ever before. Professor Wil Zonneveld is currently the head of the section. He has a wide portfolio of research projects including EU Seventh Framework, government and NGO funded work.