Complex Regions in Transformation

Key words: regional development, spatial planning, democratisation, governance, regional design, spatial justice

The graduation theme Complex Regions in Transformation is dedicated to research, planning and design proposals that tackle issues of regionalisation in a globalised world facing a growing number of public challenges, such as climate change, pandemics, energy crisis, unchecked migration, growing inequality, rise of populism, and the erosion of the public sphere. The accumulation of competing spatial claims that are caused by these issues have recently had a profound impact on ideas about how our regions should be planned and managed. They have triggered a greater appreciation of adaptive spatial planning approaches which link knowledge about particular places to more temporary governance arrangements, a more transitional perspective on planning processes, and more transformative perceptions of natural, metabolic and evolutionary spatial change. In a context of uncertainty, contentiousness and complexity, they aim at unlocking greater and timelier societal responses to problems in the built environment while maintaining robust, long-term planning rationales at the same time.

Our aim is to understand and to propose feasible and realistic planning and design solutions that comply with the above-mentioned challenges and tendencies. Graduation projects demonstrate the working of solutions at a regional scale, their effect on multiple other scales, how they enhance sustainable and inclusive development and how they are embedded in the particular governance and institutional contexts of each specific region or country. The outputs of graduations are strategic plans that integrate argument. A spatial strategy is typically composed of new or revised coalitions between public sector, private sector and civil society, as well as spatial projects and policies that have wide-ranging and highly salient spatial and societal impacts.

Learning goals

At the end of the graduation year, students will be able to

  1. Develop an understanding of the forces that shape sustainable and just regional spatial development, including issues of planning and governance;
  2. Develop specific knowledge about contemporary transformative planning approaches to sustainability, including a holistically understanding of political, social, economic, cultural and environmental forces;
  3. Develop spatial strategies that address the public challenges mentioned above in an integrated manner;
  4. Develop a connection to innovative policy making at supra-national levels, e.g. the Green Deal for Europe, the Leipzig Charter, the Paris Agreement, the UNESCO Historic Urban Landscape recommendation, and the Pact of Amsterdam;
  5. Develop multi-scalar spatial strategies and spatial interventions that have a metropolitan and regional effect.


Reading recommendation

  • Allmendinger, P., Haughton, G. & Knieling, J. (eds.) (2015). Soft Spaces in Europe: Re-negotiating Governance, Boundaries and Borders, London: Routledge.
  • Balz, V. E. (2018). Regional design: Discretionary approaches to regional planning in The Netherlands. Planning Theory, 17, 332-354.
  • Dijkstra, L., Poelman, H., & Rodríguez-Pose, A. (2018). The geography of EU discontent. Regional and Urban Policy Working Papers, 12.
  • Faludi, A. (2019). The Poverty of Territorialism: A Neo-Medieval View of Europe and European Planning. Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Meijers, E., & Van der Wouw, D. (2019). Struggles and strategies of rural regions in the age of the ‘urban triumph’. Journal of Rural Studies, 66, 21-29.
  • Rodríguez-Pose, A. (2018). The revenge of the places that don’t matter (and what to do about it). Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 11(1), 189–209.
  • Van Buuren, A., Driessen, P., P. J., Van Rijswick, M., Rietveld, P., Salet, W., Spit, T., & Teisman, G. R. (2013). Towards Adaptive Spatial Planning for Climate Change: Balancing Between Robustness and Flexibility. Journal for European Environmental & Planning Law, 10(1), 29-53.

Exemplary graduation projects