Interdisciplinary Research Program – TUDelft Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment
Redesigning Deltas

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An initiative by the Delta Urbanism Interdisciplinary Research Programme—Redesigning Deltas, Delft University of Technology Partners: Convergence Alliance-Resilient Delta Deltares Wageningen University & Research The Delta Commissioner PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency IHE Delft Erasmus University


Prof. Dr. Chris Zevenbergen RDD Lead Coordination – Professor of Delta Urbanism – Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands
Dr. Ellen Tromp Co-coordinator RDD – Programme Leader at Deltares Research
Dr. Fransje Hooimeijer RDD Core Team – Associate Professor Environmental Technology and Design / Delta Urbanism – Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands
Dr. Arch. Taneha Kuzniecow Bacchin RDD Core Team – Assistant Professor Urban Design / Delta Urbanism – Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands
Dr. Nikki Brand RDD Core Team – Interdisciplinary Scientist at Strategic Development – Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands
Dr. Geneviève Girard RDD Core Team – Senior Policy/Strategy Advisor at the Department of Strategic Development – Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands

Prof. Dr. Chris Zevenbergen TU Delft A+BE/ IHE Delft
Prof. Dr. Bas Jonkman TU Delft CEG
Prof. Eric Luiten TU Delft A+BE
Prof. Thijs Asselberg TU Delft A+BE
Prof. Dr. Marcel Hertogh TU Delft CEG
Prof. Dr. Neelke Doorn TU Delft TPM
Prof. Dr. Geert Teisman Erasmus University Rotterdam
Prof. Dr. Frank van Oort Erasmus University Rotterdam
Prof. Dr. Petra Hellegers Wageningen University & Research
Prof. Dr. Bart van den Hurk Deltares / Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Prof. Adriaan Geuze West 8 / TU Delft

ir. Like Bijlsma PBL
ir. Remon Pot Deltares
ir. Hans de Boer TU Delft / DIMI
ir. Yuka Yoshida H+N+S Landscape Architects
Dr. Jos Timmermans TU Delft / Delta Futures Lab
Dr. Gerardo van Halsema Wageningen University & Research
Dr. Roelof Moll TU Delft Dr. Joep Storms TU Delft

Unsustainable growth (urbanization) and shifting time horizons in delta management increase the urgency of the environmental crisis in deltas. Besides, an opportunity for a ‘reset’ arises because of the near sell-by date current infrastructure systems (mature deltas) and the vast investments planned in the coming decades (emerging deltas). It is essential to identify and understand pathways to a sustainable and inclusive delta in which transformations are likely necessary. Unfortunately, the current practice of ‘delta-management’ falls short, as it lacks integration and design. Collective inter-disciplinary knowledge production is required to develop these (transformation) pathways, and the success of collective knowledge production does require a design-based approach, in which different perspectives are recognized and joint new perspectives are developed. Therefore, we initiated an ambitious, inter-disciplinary and multi-annual project which places design and design-based research at the heart to deliver these outcomes. We propose to use the Delft Approach as a basis on which to build in the process of Redesigning Deltas, in which finding consensus (joint fact finding), making visions, and designing their material, ecological and temporal manifestation in space (design-thinking) help to explore, envision, and project new futures, to evoke and enable change.

The main goal of this project is to build the knowledge and collective commitment in the delta community* to support the shift in paradigm where water (security & safety) management is integrated into planning and design and vice versa in which the role of design and design-based research is revisited and strengthened.
The project will evoke systemic change on two levels:

  1.  Strategy: transformability (persistence – fragments vs. permanence – main structure)

  2.  Tactics: flexibility (ability to respond, contingency), continuous learning, adaptability, and innovation (ability to change) and will deliver as concrete outputs pathways to sustainable deltas (national and international context).


In a collaboration involving the Delta Urbanism group and various faculties of the TU Delft, the Delta program, Deltares, Resilient Delta, Erasmus University, Wageningen University and PBL, Redesigning Delta will start in the first year with four activities to identify and articulate the main gaps in knowledge. These activities are:

1. Joint fact finding
2. Design Study
3. Academic Synthesis
4. Cross-boundaries Exchange

These four activities feed each other iteratively and will result in defining the contours of an ambitious 5-year scientific program involving education and research aimed at implementation.


Goal: creating a shared scope (perceptions, actions) among the delta community* on dealing with extreme climate scenarios (e.g. 2-3 meter sea level rise, change trends of extreme events, droughts, salinisation), climate adaptation, subsidence, sustainability transitions, housing shortage, agricultural transformation and boundary conditions of the context (what social/economic/ climate scenario?) for current and desired society.
Product: report describing shared scope and state-of-the-art knowledge.
Methods: identification of integrated backbones and fact finding by interview of experts and decision makers, data hackathons and various events.


Goal: discovering and investigating new approaches through back- and forecasting of extreme scenarios by multidisciplinary teams.
Product: spatial visions for several areas of the Dutch delta.
Methods: collaboration between Spatial Design (problem seeking, envisioning different spatial interventions (transformative change) for a complex & wicked challenge) and Design in Engineering (problem solving, finding the best solution for a clear and tame problem)


Goal: technical innovation may not be understood as the literal improvement of one technical system but of the improvement of the cooperation between multiple technical systems. This involves a set of methods and approaches that need to be inventorized and improved.
Product: contours of the programme, listing the current available (methodology) knowledge, enhancing the knowledge transfer and uptake, and where necessary knowledge development and setting of new paradigms.
Method: creating a library of state-of-the-art ‘methodologies-instruments’ and seeks for white spots, leading to the following question: are these instruments fit for purpose?

Featured image:

RDD It’s About Time – IABR 2022

This manifest is built on the analyses and designs of the five challenges or delta moment, and from these the propositions are projected on the Water State Map 1873. This future- past timelapse is done to acknowledge that before the industrial revolution there was an era where more resilience with the dynamic delta system was tradition. As a collective effort, the five projects formed a ‘new Dutch’ design approach to flood risk management:  #WE ARE HERE TO STAY, AND WE TAKE RESPONSIBILITY, WE CAN CHANGE There is a state of paralysis, doubts on who, what, how and when responsibility and steps towards a safe and secure future should be taken. #WE NEED TO KNOW MORE There is a lot of sectoral knowledge and experience on the delta system, but it lacks integration and evaluation. #WENEEDDARETOMAKEPAINFULDECISIONS To design with uncertainties and without 20 years of research, and without trusting ‘protection’ only. #WE UTILIZE THE DELTA-PARADOX: REGULATION WITHIN THE DYNAMICS We are now regulating the delta system top down and controlling its dynamics. With a set of ‘measures that fits all’- approach whilst there are many morphological, social and economical differences in the Delta. #WE DESIGN THE DELTA BOTTOM UP The design of the Delta is done by the natural system. This is the first boundary condition for an approach wherein the natural – ecological, soil and water – system comes first. Soil and water systems are setting the stage for the occupation. #THE DESIGN OF THE DELTA STARTS WITH THE SECTION There is still a silo approach to the management of the territory. The interdisciplinary design of the delta should be done through scales and disciplines from the section to the international situation.

Reporting ‘space, time and everyday life’ in the Delta