The Dutch Layers Approach


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Presentation for AESOP conference 2009. Paper available at

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The Dutch Layers Approach

  1. 1. The Dutch layer approach turn-of-the-century phenomenon or fundamental approach to urban design and planning tasks? Jeroen van Schaick Working paper Ina Klaasen ®
  2. 2. The Dutch layer approach …are you familiar? …are you familiar with the critiques? …what is it? Not one answer…Common denominator: (part of an) approach to spatial planning that distinguishes three layers on which to tackle a planning task: Substratum (soil/water/under ground); Networks; Occupation patterns
  3. 3. This presentation Research project: time-oriented approaches in urbanism Short introduction to the layer approach: 1998 Our focus: Research question Key documents: variations Promotion in professional practice: variations Some major points of critique Discussion: Hype or fundamental?
  4. 4. Research project: time-oriented approaches in urbanism Focus: expert opinions on incorporating time in spatial planning and design Source: Drewe 2005
  5. 5. Introduction layer approach: 1998, the 1st model - Model to categorize existing plans for national spatial development - The regional scale - Working philosophy - Normative model: a model for choosing between priorities - The longer the time horizon, the more the tasks on that layer sets conditions for planning tasks on the other layers - Sectorally coloured problem definition on each layer - Spatial planning as integrator …it had a nerve in spatial planning practice
  6. 6. Introduction layer approach: 1998, the 1st model Design and planning Time horizon tasks Layer 1 Substratum - Dealing with the physical effects of climate change 100-500 years -Modernising the water management system Layer 2 Networks - Strengthening the position of the 50-100 years Netherlands in international networks -Control and steer the growth of mobility Layer 3 Occupation -Accommodating spatial claims and shrinkage in 25-50 years relation to values and attractivity Coherence - Creating synergy between interventions > Conditioning spatial planning > Facilitating spatial planning Source: De Hoog, Sijmons & Verschuren, 1998
  7. 7. The working paper – research question What variations of the original layer model have been constructed since 1998? In what ways have these variations enriched or neglected time-oriented thinking in urban design and planning? The working paper – analytical-interpretative viewpoints The trends that can be distilled from policy documents and other documents from planning practice Variations in the interpretation of the theoretical basis of the Dutch layer approach
  8. 8. The working paper - our focus: 1998-2009 Key documents Promotion in planning practice Some major points of critique Behind the critique: interpreting variations on the original model …not an exhaustive overview of applications in practice, but focussing on key ‘promotional’ documents and exemplary documents from spatial planning practice
  9. 9. Some key documents: 1998 and 2001 ‘slimming down’ ‘weighting’ 1998: national spatial 2001: substratum (under 2001: the layer model planning tasks prioritized ground, soil and water) on as basis for analysis in the agenda Fifth Memorandum on Spatial Planning …and the stage was set for implementation, interpretation, amendments, transformations, etc.
  10. 10. Adding layers, linking to other discourses in spatial planning Variations in key documents (1/5) The first occurrence of the layer approach in an official policy document Embedded in a whole range of discourses related to the ESDP Adapted to include “the cultural dimension” …..was the layer approach not viable to begin with? Source: RPD (2000)
  11. 11. Promotion in professional practice: since 2003 “towards a sustainable “advice about content, process “Guide for environment in spatial quality” and implementation of regional spatial plans” structure visions” DCMR, 2004 IPO, 2003 Stadsgewest Haaglanden, 2003
  12. 12. But what role does the layer model play in these guides for planning? Variations (2/5) A model to make choices: One layer setting conditions for planning tasks on the other Analytical tool to widen the view of planners (and specialists) vertically and horizontally Planning process tool Description of reality …getting a bit too complex? Images by Peter Dauvellier; (2004 and 2006 versions)
  13. 13. Variations (3/5) maps > scheme > process national regional local 2001 2002 2003 …but it is not a linear development Source: Ministry VROM (2001) Source: Provincie Noord-Holland (2002) Source: Stadsgewest Haaglanden (2003)
  14. 14. Variations (4/5): adding layers, new content The The layer of natural agricultural layer landscape The urban The pleasure layer and leisure layer 2009, in one single document Source: Provincie Overijssel (2000)
  15. 15. Different ideas of the time horizon Variations in key documents (5/5) Source Dynamics on the occupation Dynamics on the network Dynamics on the substratum layer layer layer De Hoog, Sijmons, Verschuren (1998b) 25-50 yrs 50-100 yrs 100-500 yrs RPD (2000) Low rate of change Moderate rate of High rate of change change RPD (2001) Not mentioned Not mentioned 50 - >500 VROM (2001a) Not mentioned Not mentioned Not mentioned Provincie Noord-Holland (2002) 1 generation/cycle Faster than >100 years on the building substratum market Sijmons (2002) on temporal scales 5-10 yrs 10-30 yrs 20-200 yrs Sijmons (2002) on planning horizons 5-15 yrs 15-50 yrs 50-100 yrs Werksma (2002) 10-40 yrs 25-100 yrs 50-500 yrs VROM (2006) Not mentioned Not mentioned Slow/longterm (2006) 10-40 yrs 20-80 yrs >100 yrs Senternovem (n/a) Highly dynamic Moderately Slightly dynamic dynamic Provincie Overijssel (2009) 5-50 yrs 50-100 yrs >100 yrs
  16. 16. Interpreting variations on the original model ‘The’ layer approach seems to be ‘everywhere’… local level, provincial level, national level …each in its own way pragmatically adjusted…or not? Justifications for variations and adoption of the approach in a certain context are often lacking At times, rather: - Different views on hierarchy of planning tasks: what first? - Different roles attributed to the layer approach: what works? - Different scales of time and of space: what is the ‘appropriate’ scale? - Different adopted histories: legitimization-after-the-fact? ……more details in the paper And here and there it is already starting to give way to other frameworks…
  17. 17. Some major points of critique: based on literature review - The constructed link between time horizon and layers is not valid, and by default the hierarchy of planning tasks neither. - Abandoned after using it for analysis - By focusing on physical-spatial questions, disregarding ‘user aspects’ (e.g. daily life) - Inflexible by ‘weighting’ the substratum layer - Not suitable to produce a spatial plan or design
  18. 18. Some major points of critique: based on literature review Critique on the critique: - No distinction between the original ‘layer model’ and the ‘layer approach’ - Disregarding the variations on the layer approach since 2001 - Ignorance of other layer-based approaches - Critique-less copying of constructed histories - No overview of applications available - No detailed analysis of the principle assumptions of the approach available ……we have tried to tackle these, but further work is necessary
  19. 19. Recap …our focus: the variations on the original layer model > Pragmatics, but also different views on the underlying theory and principles > Poor in further theoretical development after 1998 …and the way in which these variations influenced time-oriented thinking in spatial design and planning > Approach often abandoned in plan making after a layer-based analysis > Still narrow concept of time: transformation of physical space, no user aspects Discussion: Hype or fundamental? Persistent in next generation of structure visions Shifting of focus to other approaches on a national level Elements of the approach are surviving: ongoing conversation, major planning tasks in NL A more fundamental debate necessary on the time concept underlying the layer approach, related to network theory
  20. 20. The Dutch layer approach turn-of-the-century phenomenon or fundamental approach to urban design and planning tasks? More information: Jeroen van Schaick Working paper Ina Klaasen ®