Planning + Deltas

Integral Planning & Design in the Delta

The future of the urbanised deltas is extremely uncertain and is determined by a complex interplay of diverging developments. How can we anticipate on this through planning and design? And which planning method is suitable? This was explored in the IPDD (Integrative Planning and Design in the Delta) research project.


Outlook studies play an important part in the developed planning method. The most commonly used term for these is ‘scenarios’. A drawback, however, is that scenarios remain rather abstract and lack specificity from a spatial perspective. Therefore, they provide little guidance for designers. The sub-study ‘outlook studies’ is focussed on optimising scenario methods.

Coordinate axes Delta scenarios, showing the two detailed scenarios Repose and Steam
Trying to predict the future is pointless, anticipating on possible developments is essential

Urbanised deltas are characterised by a high level of complexity as a result of the convergence of a dynamic natural environment and dynamic social developments. By closer cooperation between design/planning, science and governance, deploying a proper systemic model in which a distinction is made between developments heading the system and the resulting effects of this on the system itself and by looking backwards as well as forwards, this complexity becomes easier to handle when conducting outlook studies.

Driving forces image Repose and Steam


H+N+S Landscape architects has lead the outlook sub-study, in which an integrated team of designers, researchers and policy makers collaborated closely. Moreover, H+N+S was involved in other sub-studies within the IPDD research project.


The result is a series of maps indicating the development of the southwestern delta from about 1750 until 2050. Two possible developments were explored for the period until 2050, resulting in two visions. Further elaboration of the visions is based on two delta scenarios: Repose and Steam.

Driving forces and system image

A focus of the developed method is the distinction between developments that are heading the system (driving forces) and their effects on the spatial system image. These perspectives are further elaborated in a cyclical process for the past, present and future.

Looking backwards and forwards

Looking back into the past yields insight into the mechanisms, which have determined the development of the system and the dynamics that may occur. This is depicted in time lines, which are extended to the two future scenarios. The same drawing style leads to a coherent series of maps and a broader context for the visions.

Two scenarios

In the STEAM scenario, the area is confronted with numerous things but the system mainly develops itself within the continuity lines from the past. Spatial pressure is huge. In the REPOSE scenario much more transitions take place within the system. The main driving force is the changing social and political agenda.

Crucial areas

Comparison of the scenarios leads to three types of areas: areas that do not change in both scenarios or areas facing similar tasks, areas that do change in one scenario but not in the other and areas that are always changing but in another way and due to other driving forces. Subsequently, developments can be tested on robustness and adaptivety.