• Verena Balz TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment



To design for the purpose of planning was not new when regional design emerged as a distinguished discipline in the 1980s in the Netherlands. On the contrary, to imagine solutions for particular areas and to discuss these for the purpose of planning has been a long-standing tradition that can be traced back to the emergence of urban planning in the early 20th century. However, when spatial planning emerged as a new, more collaborative and anticipatory planning approach in the last decades, expectations concerning performances of design in planning decision-making increased. Design came to be seen as a practice that not only improves the spatial and technical quality of plans, but also enhances planning innovation, clarifies political agendas, forges societal alliances and raises the efficiency of planning through timely consideration of conflicts that planning may cause in societal and political domains. Since the 1990s, regional design underwent a process of institutionalisation in Dutch national planning. The practice became repetitively used and was formally embedded in planning procedures.

Despite more varied expectations and institutionalisation, interrelations between regional design and spatial planning are not well understood. As a result, the performances of regional design are difficult to predict and consequently, often disappointing. Therefore, this research has sought to conceptualise interrelations between regional design and spatial planning. It aimed at an enhanced explanation and prediction of performances. The main research question was: how do the interrelations between regional design and spatial planning influence the performances of regional design? Answers to this question were sought through case-study research. During two consecutive rounds of exploration, two perspectives were taken. During a first in-depth case-study, key performances of regional design were analysed. During a second multiple case-studies analysis, the contextual determinants of these performances were investigated.

Detailed results of this dissertation are embodied in Chapter 3 to 7 of this publication. Below, these outcomes are summarised in order to form one coherent line of argument. Theoretical notions, which were considered during the research but were not mentioned in earlier publications of the chapters in the form of journal articles and book chapters, are added. The chapter also contains a critical reflection on the research approaches that were used. A dedicated section summarises the implications of findings for future research.

Author Biography

Verena Balz, TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment

I studied Architecture at the Technical University in Berlin, Germany, and the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, USA. My studies in the United States were supported by grants from the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, the United States Information Agency, and the Illinois Institute of Technology. My graduation thesis, which tested a particular industrial design-support computer programme on its usefulness for urban design, was judged excellent.

Between 1999 and 2005 I was employed at Maxwan Architects and Urbanists, and Crimson architectural historians, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. As an urbanist and senior urbanist at these firms I participated in and led urbanism projects of various levels of scale in several European countries. From 2005 to 2008 I was Chief Designer at Atelier Zuidvleugel (South Wing Studio), a publicly funded policy institute concerned with regional planning and design in the southern part of the Dutch Randstad region. In this position I became acquainted with developing and carrying out innovative regional-design strategies in complex multi-actor governance settings. Projects I initiated and led have had as their main concern transit-oriented development and the integration of socio-economic and spatial development in the region. I am the principal author of a number of books that document these projects, as well as co-author of a book that reviews South Wing Studio’s regional design practice.

Since 2009 I have been an assistant professor and teacher at the Department of Urbanism, Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, Delft University of Technology. The main focus of my research is on the use and performance of regional design-led approaches in planning decision-making. My work on this topic has been published in international peer-reviewed journals and academic books. As a research team leader I have initiated conference sessions and co-organized international conferences dedicated to the Department’s core interest in regional design. My engagement has contributed to the building up of an international network of researchers with interest and expertise in this emerging theme. In addition to regional design, I also have expertise on spatial planning, Dutch national planning, regional policy, territorial governance, and European Cohesion Policy. I have built up and applied this knowledge during my participation in a broad range of publicly funded research projects. Besides participating as a researcher and national expert in such projects, I have contributed to the acquisition of research grants from, among others, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), and acquired funds for my own research projects. As a teacher I am involved in the Bachelor and Master of Architecture, Urbanism, and Building Sciences programmes. Besides being a course coordinator, lecturer, design tutor, and mentor on individual courses, I am also co-coordinator of the third quarter of the MSc Urbanism track, entitled ‘Spatial Strategies for the Global Metropolis’, and studio coordinator of the MSc Urbanism graduation studio ‘Planning Complex Cities’.

Since 2008 I have had my own firm. As an independent researcher and designer I provide consultancy on regional spatial planning and design. I frequently co-operate with design firms, in particular OOZE architects, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.






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