Research approach

  • Verena Balz TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment


The main methodology used to answer the above-listed research questions was that of an exploratory case-study research (Figure 2.1). In this methodology the formation of hypotheses and empirical analysis inform each other during iterative steps: an initial proposition was formulated and tested through case-study analysis; results led to an adaptation of the proposition, which was tested in the next casestudy round. It is important to note that exploratory case-study research does not fully verify a hypotheses, but seeks to stabilize them and in this way give direction to further research (Yin, 2013, Yin, 2012). Below, the use of the methodology for this thesis is explained.

Besides using empirical case-study research for the strengthening of propositions, the dissertation also draws on theoretical notions from the fields of design and planning, as explained in the previous chapter. Its engagement with theories from different disciplines required a comparison of concepts and categories presented in fields and sub-fields. Criteria to qualify such theory formation in the social sciences is discussed below, under the heading ‘theory formation’.

It is important to note that this chapter adds to the more detailed descriptions of methods in Chapters 4 to 7 and Chapter 8: Conclusions contains critical remarks on the methodologies which have been applied.

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.

How to Cite
BALZ, Verena. Research approach. A+BE | Architecture and the Built Environment, [S.l.], n. 6, p. 44-57, june 2019. ISSN 2214-7233. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 23 july 2019. doi: