The Dutch layers approach to spatial planning and design

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A revised version of this paper was accepted for publication in European Planning Studies
   1 The Dutch layer approach – a turn-of-the-century phenomenon orfundamental approach to urban design and planning tasks? WORKING PAPER FOR AESOP 2009 – DO NOT QUOTE WITHOUT EXPLICIT PERMISSION Jeroen van Schaick and Ina Klaasen (0)15 2781367Delft University of TechnologyFaculty of Architecture – Dep.UrbanismJulianalaan 132-1342628 BL DelftThe Netherlands AbstractIn 1998 a layer model that distinguished three layers of spatial planning tasks on the basis of different planning horizons – substratum, networks and occupation - was introduced in thenational debate on spatial planning in the Netherlands. It was presented as a normative modelwhich provides a framework to make strategic choices between different long term spatialplanning and design tasks. It hit a nerve in spatial planning practice, initially in particular on anational level, but later also on the provincial and municipal level. Since 1998, this model hasdeveloped as an approach to spatial planning and design: the Dutch layer approach. In theprocess it got transformed in different ways. Although many critiques and some analyses of theapproach can be found in literature on Dutch spatial planning, no studies have been publishedthat examine the development of the Dutch layer approach in detail. In this paper we aim toprovide insight in the development of the layer approach between 1998 and 2009 from both atheoretical angle as well as that from its application in practice. We focus on the variations of thelayer approach that have been constructed since its introduction and the way in which thesevariations influenced time-oriented thinking in spatial planning and design. Based on ouranalysis we conclude our paper with a discussion on our title question: is the Dutch layerapproach a passing hype or does it represent a more fundamental approach to urban design andplanning tasks?1. Introducing the Dutch layer approach as a time-oriented approach 1.1 Setting the stageIn 1996 De Hoog, Sijmons and Verschuren   were asked to structure some fifty spatial plans and spatialideas on the future of the Netherlands as part of the research project  Het Metropolitane Debat  – themetropolitan debate. They were asked to structure the projects in ‘plan families’ and in strategies.Their answer in the report  Laagland  (De Hoog, Sijmons and Verschuren, 1998a; 1998b providing asummary) was a stratified model which connected planning tasks to time horizons of spatialtransformation. The model provides a normative framework for strategic choices regarding Dutchspatial planning tasks. As this paper will demonstrate, the model that emerged from the analysis hit anerve in spatial planning practice, initially in particular on a national level, but later also on theprovincial and municipal level where it quickly became known as the layer approach, a term we willuse in this text when not referring to the model presented in 1998.De Hoog, Sijmons en Verschuren (1998b: 78) srcinally“suggest to distinguish three ‘layers’ in the spatial organization of the  Laagland  (Lowland):the layer of the substratum, the layer of the networks and the layer of the occupation pattern.These layers know different ‘times’. …To these three layers we add the element of coherence. We consider this coherence between the layers as the domain of spatial planning:here we shoot an arrow through the strongly sectorally coloured problem definition on thedistinguished layers.”   2 Their main assumption was that the substratum physically transforms slower than the networks, whichin turn transform at a lower rate than the physical structures on the occupation layer. This assumptionled to the idea that the layers from bottom to top set priorities and conditions for spatial planning taskson the other layers. Table 1 shows how the analysis of the spatial plans and ideas connects to planningand design tasks for the Netherlands. For each layer they also show which approaches are present inthe plans. In addition to these strategic components explained in verbal language, the layer model orlayer approach has an important visual component that exemplifies how these layers are perceived inplanning practice: for the substratum a map of soil and water, for the networks a map of the physicalinfrastructure networks (with the exception of RPD (2000) which also shows soft infrastructure as partof the network layer) and for the occupation a map of urbanization and green recreational areas.(Figures 1, 2, 3 and 4) But the visual language used in relation to the layer approach is not limited tomaps. Schemes play an important role in the perception of the layer approach as a layered model(Figure 5 and 6). Design and planning tasks ApproachesLayer 1 Substratum - Dealing with the physical effects of climate change- Modernising the water managementsystem- Nature engineering- Civil engineeringLayer 2 Networks - Strengthening the position of theNetherlands in international networks- Control and steer the growth of mobility- Complexes approach (developing nodesfor exchange of information andknowledge)- Corridor approach (developing mainportsand hinterland connections)Layer 3 Occupation - Accommodating spatial claims andshrinkage in relation to values andattractivity- ‘Écology’-approach (An ecology definedas a locally characteristic ‘life-style-environment’)- Mold-Contramold approach (city vs.landscape)Coherence - Creating synergy between interventions - Conditioning spatial planning- Facilitating spatial planning Table 1 Design tasks and noted approaches as they appeared in the analysis of 50 plus Dutch spatial plans for the Netherlands.Source: De Hoog, Sijmons, Verschuren, 1998b)  From 1998 onwards, the layer model got embedded in an already vivid discussion about the regionallevel in planning, about the balance between local and national responsibility for spatial planning andabout the importance of water-related and infrastructure problems in spatial planning (see e.g. TenCate 1998). At the turn of the century, the layer model started to play a prominent role in the yearlyexplorations for a national planning agenda by the national spatial planning agency (RPD, 2000 &2001). Over the next decade the layer model ( lagenmodel )   had been formalized as a planning approach– layer approach or lagenbenadering - in national, provincial and local planning documents (Cammen& De Klerk, 2003). Although the three layers remained the main ingredient, the layer approach wasoften amended, adjusted and reinterpreted since (e.g. Provincie Overijssel, 2009). Figure 1 The territory of the Randstad in three layers. This illustration of the layers of the substratum, of thenetworks and of the occupation pattern (left to right) accompanied the srcinal article in which the layer model wasproposed. (Source: De Hoog, Sijmons and Vercshuren, 1998b: 75)   3   Figure 2 Area design Leiden-Haarlem-Amsterdam. The first design application of the layer approach. From left toright: (a) substratum: new conditions through water management: new drainage canals; (b) networks: new conditionsthrough infrastructure planning: nodes, regional public transport and work areas; (c) occupation: interactionsbetween red and green. (source: H+N+S, 1998: 38-40)Figure 3 The layers substratum, networks and occupation analysing the Dutch situation at the end of the 20 th century,complemented by a compilation map in the  Fifth Memorandum on Spatial Planning and the  National Spatial Strategy  document. (source: VROM, 2001a and duplicated in VROM 2006)   4 (a) (b)(c) (d) Figure 4 European spatial structure connected to the three layers (a) substratum, (b and c) networks and (d)occupation. Map (a) visualises natural qualities and water management issues. Network-oriented map (b) addressesaccessibility and infrastructure, where network-oriented map (c) focuses on possible cooperation between cities inurban networks. Map (d) focuses on the relation between pressure on land use changes and types of rural areas.Source: RPD (2000: 57, 60, 62, 72)
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