Delft South-East: working together on a future-proof redesign


Living, studying, playing sports and working: that describes Delft South-East in a nutshell. The public spaces bear witness of that variety: homes, businesses and industry; historical buildings and feats of contemporary architecture.

Workshop © Jan Brouwer

Workshop © Jan Brouwer

The area sees intensive use and is relatively full. Nevertheless, more homes, more business space and more educational facilities are still needed. In addition, climate change is necessitating an increase in the water storage capacity and a ‘reinforcement of the resilience of the water and ground systems’. More vegetation is needed to enhance the quality of the living environment and to reduce heat stress. An extensive palette of requirements emerged, yet the municipality, owning little of the land, effectively had little input. This situation called for a carefully considered, integrated planning approach.

Workshop © Jan Brouwer


An intensive participation procedure was set up, with climate workshops for research. Little by little parties started trusting one another and creative plans emerged with detailed possibilities for water and green. Additional water storage, green roofs, permeable car parks: Delft Zuid-Oost as a sustainable sponge with spatial quality and a veritable boulevard along the Schie River.

Imagine facing this task: realising water storage facilities in a place where that is almost impossible. Yet that was the mission based on the Delft Water Plan. Another handicap was that the area development project encountered a great deal of opposition from the locals. Residents demanded more focus on the quality of life and more green areas and water; the municipal authorities wanted more homes and industry in combination with additional water storage capacity. At a certain point the authorities and the residents found themselves completely at cross purposes. Neither had much understanding for the other party’s interests and the atmosphere became very chilly. The process ground to a halt. What was to be done?

Workshop © Jan Brouwer

On track

In 2010, to get matters back on track, the Delft municipal authorities launched the water and climate project Delft Spetterstad. Spetterstad was set up as a parallel track alongside the formal process of development and restructuring that had ground to a halt.

The first step was to map out the preferences of the district’s users and the possibilities for making the district climate-proof during the revitalisation project. Climate workshops were organised in which professionals from the government, the business sector and knowledge institutes shared their ideas with interest groups. And sure enough, the various parties learned to appreciate each other’s positions.

Getting started

Now that the parties had listened to one another, they were able – and willing – to move on with enthusiasm. This took the shape of a creative and interactive planning process, with input from residents. Using such methods as climate workshops and practical workshops and the ‘Serious Climate Game’, a number of scenarios were conceived and tried. As the work progressed, it became more and more apparent what the parties actually wanted. Eventually, the findings of this creative process were incorporated into the formal process: in the pending process of the environmental impact report and the formal planning procedures. Sufficient support had been generated for those developments during the creative process. Delft South-East started moving forward once more.

It works

Delft Spetterstad was a surprising process. The participation process with the climate and residents workshops, the many meetings, the development and the Climate Game all generated a great deal of enthusiasm and produced results. The focus was shifted to an understanding of interests, opportunities and possibilities. This generated energy, problem-solving ability and creativity. The interaction between the formal and the creative processes proved to be a revelation. The outcome was a pleasant climate- and future-proof perspective for the district and possibilities for different points of view.

Where once the process for Delft Spetterstad had come to a standstill, it is now moving forward at a good pace, based on input from residents and professionals. The acceleration, the contrast with the period in which the developments had ground to a halt, is extraordinary and inspiring. The parties have started trusting one another again and are involved. Support has been generated once more in Delft.

Lessons learned

To realise sustainable green-blue urban planning, it is important to:

  • Focus on demand in terms of sustainable area and district development;
  • Integrate sustainability, quality of the living environment and climate adaptation in the design instructions;
  • Display boldness on the part of the administration, based on a strong vision and a solid explanation;
  • Involve residents, developers and businesses (stakeholders) right from the start and give them clear-cut roles in the process;
  • Create vital coalition and self-controlling sub-processes (act, learn and adjust);
  • Set up public-private partnerships at an early stage;
  • Encourage private initiatives from collective private principals; and
  • Implement specific solutions based on interactive implementation in practice.