Interdisciplinary design is the integration of sectoral responsibilities, goals and solutions (Hooimeijer et al., 2021). Especially the responsibilities and goals can deviate enormously between disciplines connected to infrastructure and environment, beyond that the aligning of engineering and spatial design approaches are not easy.  The general engineering approach can be defined as looking into ‘tame’ problems, the problem is clear and it is clear when the problem has been solved. The general spatial design approach is dealing with ‘wicked’ problems, problems that deal with open societal systems and therefore have no clarifying traits, there is no clear good solution, there are multiple (Webber and Rittel, 1973).

Besides this arena, there is the current paradigm of ‘resilience’ which can be defined as the ability of a system to adjust in the face of changing conditions (events) (Meerow et al., 2016). The need for interdisciplinary is the chance for adapting this paradigm and creating climate-proof, high-quality cities in deltas.

Important for interdisciplinary design is:
• Acceptance of the wicked
• Different learning experiences between engineers and designers
• Acknowledgement of the other
• Group building, clear organizations and steps
• Linking methods to be able to link ideas are crucial



The Delta Future lab offers support to reach interdisciplinary design in three ways:

Interdisciplinary conditions                                    Interdisciplinary process                                    Interdisciplinary methods


Interdisciplinary Conditions are created by offering a platform where all groups can interact and learn together with staff and practice partners. The groups themselves are set up in such a way that the following conditions are met:
– Taking the same location, shared analyses,
– Working for a ‘client’ in practice, offering infrastructure,
– Group building through excursion and other activities,
– Regular presentations and meetings between students work,
– Workshops with interdisciplinary methods,
– Taking interdisciplinary mentors in mentor teams,
– Interdisciplinary project as glue for thesis projects,
– Defining specific interdisciplinary subjects that are shared by master students,
– Connecting to research by staff.

The interdisciplinary Process
of the teams is structured by the following steps.
• analysis & synthesis
• design
• conclusions

In each step, there is a phase of divergence in which widely knowledge and options are explored within all cooperating disciplines. It is followed up by a phase of convergence in which the choices made for each discipline are done on the basis of the conditions set by the other disciplines.

interdisciplinary Methods
offered are multiple, these are examples:
• Charrettes
• scoping ‘Tohoku’ method
• research by design

The “Charrettes” is about creating involvement by organizing a discussion in successive rounds in which the data is discussed and step by step, or round by round, integration of information that can be used for synthesis and design becomes groups knowledge (Lennertz, Lutzenhiser, and Duany 2014).

Scoping ‘Tohoku’ method
The integration of information and ideas will be done using a method of scoping using again the charrette. With the scoping method, the first condition is met by creating a common understanding of the problem and context of the case. Each group, within their created body of knowledge, order their chosen measures or concepts by using scopes on the base of the 4P thetraeder theory (Van Dorst and Duijvenstein, 2004). In spatial planning and design, the very general sustainability aspects of the ‘triple bottom line’ consisting of the three P’s: people, planet and prosperity (UN, 2002) are translated into territorial interventions seeking balance and synergy.
• People: prosperity, health, freedom (of choice), social cohesion, participation, safety;
• Planet: world, flows, energy, water, material, mobility, purity;
• Prosperity: profit, affordability, fairness.
This crucial strategic activity is captured by a fourth P in the 4P tetrahedron theory by van Dorst and Duijvestein (2004). The fourth P represents both project and process. ‘Project’ stands for the physical results of the balance between the triple P and represents spatial quality, relations through scales, (bio)diversity, robustness and aesthetics. ‘Process’ regards the interaction between stakeholders, their skills and the institutional context in realising a balanced design (van Dorst and Duijvestein, 2004).

Each group weighs their chosen measures or concepts using the following scopes:
People: organization (bottom-up to top-down).
Planet: engineering impact (nature-based solutions to hardcore engineering) or sustainability goals.
Prosperity: financial (expensive to in-expensive) or non-monetary value impact.
On the base of there they balance out their decisions and formulate the last scope:
Project: preferable to least preferable measures or concepts.

The making of the scopes gives the disciplinary better insight and understanding of the set of measures or concepts they formulated and also allows them to have a foundation to connect their proposals to the proposals of the other disciplines that used the same scopes. Then the chosen measures and concepts can also be weighed in relation to measures and concepts of the other disciplines and true interaction of making decisions between the disciplines takes place.

Research by design
Hugh Dutton (2000) has argued for an integrated approach to design: ‘For an integrated approach to design, borders between the distinct professional, industrial, and construction territories must be transgressed. The success of this exploration depends on designers understanding of the capacities and constraints of each separate field during the design process.’ To integrate engineering into urban planning and design, this understanding needs to be part of the design process, as well as of the governance processes, and products need to be innovative.
Creating the framework of understanding with the scoping method leads to the question: what if? And different scenarios can be designed on the basis of this. This is research by design, delivering insight into the context and options for new futures.




Dutton H. (2000) ‘An integral approach to structure and Architecture’, Perspecta 31 Reading Structures, Yale Architectural Journal, lnc.(2000), p.61

Huutoniemi, K.; Klein, J.T.; Bruun, H.; Hukkinen, J. Analyzing interdisciplinarity: Typology and indicators.
Res. Policy 2010, 39, 79–88.

Lennertz, W. R., A. Lutzenhiser, and A. Duany. 2014. The Charrette Handbook: The Essential Guide to Design-based Public Involvement. Chicago, IL: APA Planner Press.

Meerow, S.; Newell, J.P.; Stults, M. Defining urban resilience: A review. Landsc. Urban Plan. 2016, 147, 38–49.

Rittel, H.W.J.; Webber, M.M. (1973) Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning. Policy Sci. 1973, 4, 155–169.

UN (United Nations) (2002) UN Report of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, South Africa. United Nations, New York, NY, USA.

van Dorst, M.J. and Duijvestein, C.A.J., (2004). Concepts of sustainable development. The 2004 International Sustainable Development Research Conference (s.n. (ed.)). University of Manchester, Manchester, UK, pp. 176–183.