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International Conference

Delta Design in Times of Climate Crisis

Celebrating Delta Urbanism* coming of age

March 5th–6th 2020

Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, TU Delft, The Netherlands
Berlagezaal 1&2

Made possible by
TU Delft DIMI | Deltas, Infrastructure & Mobility Initiative

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Celebrating Delta Urbanism coming of age!

At this juncture of climate crisis, design is crucial to secure a resilient future of fragile urban delta landscapes. Design is at the core of the interdisciplinary approach in which the scopes from spatial design, ecology, engineering and policy are united in strong and visionary strategies and tactics.

The conference is dedicated to discussing future design as a collaborative enterprise of the disciplines of spatial design, ecology, engineering and policy and as a leading method within the research premises of the Delta Urbanism research group*. These research premises examine the multi-layered phenomenon of urbanization between land and water and thus the scope of design in highly dynamic landscapes. What we are now experiencing as the era of climate crisis – the effects of the antropocene – aggravates this condition, requiring to look at urbanization in delta, coastal and river landscapes as a formative, operational and performative process. Therefore delta design is discussed here not only as an approach to highly dynamic landscapes but rather as a fundamental shift in the way urbanization is addressed by design — as a driver of environmental change.

The conference aims at exploring the scope, representation and future of delta design in times of climate crisis, looking through the lens of four research premises. The scopes of spatial design, ecology, engineering and policy will be presented by keynote speakers during the morning sessions. In the afternoon the research premises will be at the centre of discussion for which we would like to invite you to submit your extended abstract. We accept abstracts via mail until the 15th of January 2020.

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Delta Urbanism—Four Research Premises

—Systems Ecologies

At the territorial level, changes in any system, whether spatial, legal, economic, or environmental, manifest themselves in consequences that are often unpredictable for other systems. This ecology of interactions is even more complex in a highly dynamic space characterized by risk and emergence such as delta, coastal and river landscapes. As a overarching premise, the objective is to research the agency of design at the territorial (systems) level for better sensitivity towards risk, integration between systems and potentials of urbanisation.

—Drawing the Delta

The explosive character of urban development, especially in delta regions, often leads to chaotic and fragmented urban patterns, combined with increased risk of flooding, land depletion and ecosystem degradation. The question is how a new (and necessary) organisation of the transitional space between land and water can contribute halting the erosion of the territory and reducing flood risk, while improving spatial coherence and ecological quality.

—Reversed Engineering with Nature

On the scale of the urban district, the city is considered as a hybrid performative landscape which requires carefull re-balancing and fostering new cooperation between the indigenous landscape and the techno-sphere of the urban systems. Synchronisation (in time, space, technology and interests) is at the core of this research premise.


Deep uncertainty on the acceleration and aggravation of extreme scenarios of climate crises introduces a new level of complexity. This calls for ingenuity and letting go of what is considered to be established. By exploring the missing means of political, cultural, economical, spatial and technological representation, light is shed on viable futures in spaces at risk. The aim is to highlight the urgency for change and put forward visualisations which can drive transitions towards a new territorial order.


Keynote Speakers

Han Meyer – Professor in Theory and Methods of Urban Design at the Technological University Delft

Richard Ashley – Chartered civil and environmental engineer

Daan Zandbelt – Chief Government Advisor on the Built and Rural Environment

Paola Vigano – Architect and urbanist and a professor of urbanism at IUAV University of Venice and of urban theory and urban design at EPFL in Lausanne

Bas Jonkman – Professor of Integral Hydraulic Engineering at the Technological University Delft

Henk Ovink – Dutch special envoy to the United Nations and flood expert.

Bas Roels – Freshwater expert/advisor at WWF Netherlands

Nina-Marie Lister – Associate Professor and the Graduate Program Director in the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University.



DELTA URBANISM is an interdisciplinary research program of the Department of Urbanism, TU Delft, which investigates the possibilities to combine flood protection, soil and water management strategies with urban design, landscape design and spatial planning, aiming to improve spatial forms and structures, and innovate urban systems in urban and metropolitan delta regions. We develop research, design and planning approaches and methods which contribute to the making of more sensible and informed decisions within the fragile context of urban delta landscapes. Founded on an interdisciplinary approach in which designing and engineering disciplines activate innovation in design, technology and governance we have the ambition to have international impact as specific interdisciplinary field. This field is characterized by a firm body of knowledge organized in four research premises which emphasize the agency of design and technology and the development of specific methods of analysis, design, visualization and interdisciplinary work.