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Urban Ecosystem Participation

2020 Covid-19 version:

The course Infrastructure and Environment Design starts with an online research April 20th. Instead of going abroad we bring abroad to us in an comparative international research.

The ecological, climate and urban crisis globally takes place in extreme landscapes. Events like tsunamis’s, hurricanes, extreme drought and cold, or extreme urbanizations even the Netherlands as extreme is taken as startingpoint for explorative research. The wide expectrum of proposed cases provides an overview of the different forms of critical relationship between nature (biotic/abiotic) and culture. By reading and mapping ongoing trends and projecting future change, the course will engage with a main research question which has the purpose to turn the negative effects of extreme ecologies around:

How can ecosystem participation work as catalyst for healthy, climate proof extreme urban environments?

It should guide us in answering how to move from considering ecosystems as a service towards going back into the system as participoant. Next result is then how does this affect the living in extreme situations. By comparing different extreme situations we can get an methodlogical understanding of how this affects our field of urban design.


  • DESERT – Egypt (drought)
  • WIND – The Bahamas (hurricane)
  • WAVE – Japan (tsunami)
  • ICE WATER – Norwegian Artic (accelerated climate change)
  • HIGH WATER – Netherlands (flood)
  • SANE WATER – India (drought, flood, sanitation)
  • CONFLICTING WATER – Houston (hurricane, pluvial, fluvial and coastal flooding)



  • Theoretical framing
  • Critical cartography
    • Landscape (Frits van Loon)
    • Ecology (Francesca Rizzetto)
    • Urban (Fransje Hooimeijer)
    • Systems of systems (Taneha Kuzniecow Bacchin)
    • Antropology (Baukje Kothuis)
  • Systems description and synthesis
  • Scenario making
  • System intervention


Collaboration German University of Cairo, University of the Bahama’s, AHO The Oslo School of Architecture and Design, CEPT University India, Waseda University, Tohoku University, Texas A&M

With urgent urban challenges such as climate adaptation, energy transition, and continued urbanisation, the need for integrating planning and design with urban engineering increases. The implementation of new technological interventions and the utilisation of the natural system is hampered by the lack of an integrated approach which incorporates urban planning and design decisions (Hooimeijer, Bricker and Iluchi, 2018). Meanwhile, urban sprawl and economic growth increasingly compete for infrastructure and environment, affecting the success or failure of the daily operating systems of cities and regions, and thereby urban competitiveness. The challenge is to fundamentally rethink the urban landscape in light of new technologies – as material and ecological practices. The question is how to renew existing urbanized areas by integrating parameters of the natural system and technological innovations directly into urban development opportunities arising from spatial planning and design.


Read the full paper


The ecological, climate and urban crisis in landscapes of extreme drought could benefit greatly from a new ‘ecosystem participation’ approach. In order to get grip on what this could entail, explorative research has been employed to study critical relations between nature (biotic/abiotic) and culture. With the purpose to turn the negative effects of extreme droughts around, the multidisciplinary course Infrastructure and Environment Design at the TU Delft, engaged with the research question: How can ecosystem participation work as a catalyst for healthy, climate proof extreme urban environments?

The research by design should showcase how to move from considering ecosystems as a service towards placing back the humans into the system as a participant. This is an important new perspective that not only gives the natural system a better position as a stakeholder in urban development, it also acknowledges the fact that it is about a process that needs to be understood contextually and requires tailor made solutions. This approach is clearer and can serve as a guiding principle throughout the duration of a development, as opposed to the use of terms like ‘nature based solutions’, ‘building with nature’, ‘green-blue infrastructure’ or ‘landscape infrastructure’ which all suggest more rigidly defined, solution-based efforts.

The research methodology steps were designed to organise theory, information, and ideas from the main question about the definition of ecosystem participation in extreme landscapes toward application of design experiments in the case of Cairo and Buhj. The first step was the theoretical framing, which helped to focus the research and to make the second step: critical cartography on the perspectives of Anthropology, Systems of systems, Landscape, Ecology and Urban. Critical cartography is research by mapping and synthesizing these maps towards design (see also the DeltaLinks article Kaarten als onderzoeksinstrument). The results of these analyses were brought together for the cases in the systems description and synthesis. These were subjected to four scenarios to identify the boundaries and qualities of the context and generate ideas. These were taken into the last step System intervention: formulation of general guidelines (group) and design experiments by the individual students.

By Fransje Hooimeijer, Taneha Kuzniecow Bacchin and Francesca Rizzetto,
with Ganesh Babu Ramaiah Perumalsamy, Jort van den Broek, Laura Conijn, Lucas Di Gioia, Esmée van Eeden, Jan Eggink, Johan Krom, Asmita Puspasari, Johnathan Subendran and Menno de Roode