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Drowning Cities: Spatial & Area (re)development

This international minor is interesting for students of Spatial Development eager to develop their design talent. By assuming the role of spatial developer, you will gain the necessary skills to find design solutions for problems in urban areas. You will also gain insight into your field of expertise. Your work will be carried out at ‘public space level’ and integrated into a broader context. You will work with lecturers and students in the field of urbanism, spatial development, civil engineering and architecture. As part of a team you will focus on water-related problems caused by climate change in residential areas.

A challenging context:
The urgent need to re-think, re-imagine and re-design cities by a worldwide network of spatial developers, urban designers and other players in the field, is the result of the threat being posed by rising sea and water levels. The strategy of fighting water is increasingly being replaced by the willingness to embrace it. Spatial and area developers therefore need to be inventive under such conditions: exploring the problem, for example, can lead to the opening up of a playground and even an unexplored toolbox (e.g. new materials, constructions, spaces, forms, ways of living, etc.). According to Waggoner Ball, designing for resilience, requires living with water and a willingness to see a threat as an opportunity.

The Dutch approach to solving water issues in urban residential and river areas has gained international attention. “Room for the river”, building with nature and the consensus economy are at the heart of this approach. In the minor, you will experience for yourself what this Dutch approach actually implies for your expertise as a spatial developer. Furthermore, you will learn if or how it can be applied to projects abroad, while taking cultural differences and socio-economic issues into account.

This minor will give you the opportunity to develop your potential as a spatial developer by having to think in terms of alternatives at ‘area’ level. You will learn to develop your own vision and perspective on an area, region or part of a city. You will also learn to have quick solutions at your fingertips in order to deal with the challenge of the rising water which is happening NOW. As a spatial developer, you will be challenged to come up with visions, proposals and feasible business cases in collaboration with other disciplines. However, you will not only be focused on coming up with a vision as a spatial developer but you will also have to figure out the costs and benefits both financially and socially. And you will have to start by asking questions such as whether it is wise or feasible to invest in your solutions. Further questions may involve technical, environmental, social or economic aspects.

If necessary, you will present several alternatives simultaneously while highlighting their pros and cons. You will enjoy scenario thinking and thinking from the perspective of the diverse stakeholders such as the residents, companies, local, national and supranational authorities. You will be acutely aware that plans without the support of stakeholders are not feasible plans.

Professional products that you can use as a spatial developer include legal advice, a management and maintenance plan, a budget, an operating budget, a cost-benefit analysis, a multi-criteria analysis, and construction cost estimates. Part of your proposals (individually or as a group) can also be a market research plan, a risk analysis, a real estate concept, an area vision, a land development calculation (grex), a programme of requirements, and an investment budget for areas and buildings. Sustainable management at area level and nature-inclusive building are self-evident

However, as a spatial developer you can also include the tactical side of management by means of giving operational or strategic management advice. In this way, you will be able to indicate to what extent the spatial problem has been solved and to what extent the resulting ambitions and expectations have been realized. Moreover, you can define follow-up actions. 

Project in Chennai, India

A case study will be provided by several companies, spatial development agencies, NGOs and/or government agencies. You will come up with solutions and new ideas for dealing with excesses or shortages of water and water pollution. These solutions will involve a concrete design for the area.

This year’s project is located in the city of Chennai (India), which has to deal with heavy flooding. The challenge is to use Water as Leverage. International partners in different disciplines are also working on this project. News on the project can be found on the website

The actual project-team:

Benthem Crouwel Architects
DeltaresCare Earth Trust
Indian Institute of Technology, MadrasIGCS
Arcadis (global)
Waggonner & Ball Architecture/Environment (New Orleans)
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

Lectures, courses and workshops:

You will also take part in workshops and courses, attend lectures covering subjects related to the project and your area of personal expertise. These will include the following:

  • Dutch approach to water: living with water
  • Flood game
  • Hydraulic calculations
  • Innovative design
  • Typical architecture, infrastructure and spatial design
  • Bio-based building (lean and/or green)
  • Working with different cultures
  • Legislation and regulations
  • Visualization

Based on this year’s project, this study programme is organized together with relevant partners such as companies, NGOs, governmental organizations, spatial development / real estate agencies and Avans research groups.

Individual design versus teamwork
You will choose and formulate your own particular research question and design problem and decide whether you will work individually or in a group of two students. Your work is connected to a team of up to 8 students, yet you are accountable for your individual contribution and design.

Professional products
What will you deliver as a spatial developer?

You will be expected to make a concrete design, while taking into account some of the following: use of materials, organization of space, spatial characteristics and elements, form, functionality, spatial design concepts, urban context, cultural context, stakeholders, etc. Input from a team of experts (civil engineers, urban planners, architects, etc.) will provide you with design opportunities and restrictions (see learning goals).

You will also have to submit a coherent set of drawings: elevations, plans, cross sections, etc.

Additionally you will submit 3D models, sketches and other forms of visualization which clearly illustrate the design process.

In general, each student must come up with the following:
- Research question (design problem)
- Research paper (thesis)
- Project action plan


  • Developing skills in design and gaining insight into the role of the area and/or spatial developer in a team of experts.
  • Coming up with and testing innovative design solutions in order to embrace water instead of fighting it.
  • By identifying stakeholders and understanding their interests and by understanding flood management, you will able to translate design requirements into a ‘briefing’.
  • By understanding what the Dutch Approach entails, you will be able to test its principles as area and/or spatial developer while exploring water and liveability problems abroad.
  • By understanding the problem of climate change in relation to the building industry, you will be able to to make sustainable design decisions (e.g. the use of bio-based materials, green, lean – supported by research groups).
  • By gaining knowledge of existing or newly designed iconic (landscape) architecture and infrastructure in a (re)developing urban area, you will be able to to identify characteristic buildings, structures and civil works in these areas. This knowledge will help you to take the specific spatial and/or aesthetic qualities of an area into account when solving a problem.
  • By studying examples from all over the world, you will gain an understanding of cultural and social differences related to building practices which in turn will influence your design decisions.
  • By understanding cultural and social differences, you will be able to offer solutions that are in compliance with the legislation and regulations of the country involved.
  • You will be able to visualize your results while making use of all the appropriate means.

Aanvullende informatie

Language of instruction: English

Note: Although this programme is located in Tilburg, this minor is part of the bachelor programme “Bouwkunde Den Bosch (BOU-H)”. You will need this information to apply (Studielink). 

Location: The Avans campus in Tilburg is our main location. Some of the activities are scheduled at Ontdekstation013, which is located in a beautiful old factory building where trains used to be repaired. Now, young people from age 4 to 24 can discover their talents through a variety of creative and technical workshops. "Perron Zakelijk" is located in Ondekstation013. Here, questions from companies, schools and universities are translated into multidisciplinary projects for school children and for Bachelor of Arts and Science students.

Ontdekstation013 is a hub where young people come into contact with creativity and technology in an inspiring way. Ontdekstation013 organizes and facilitates (educational) programs and events that contribute to the promotion of technology, innovation and 21st century skills.


This programme is open to you if you have successfully completed at least 2 years of a bachelor's degree programme relating to the built environment.

Examples of eligible disciplines include:

  • Area development
  • Spatial development
  • Spatial design
  • Urbanism / urban design
  • Real estate management 
  • Asset management

Working with:

  • Civil Engineering
  • Architecture and Construction Engineering
  • Architecture


In this programme you can earn 30 ECTS credits as an integrated whole study unit. Assessments will take the form of reviews of and feedback on the weekly submissions and on the final product and presentation held as part of the online closing symposium.


  • Lectures and workshops: 12 ECTS
  • Project (group result): 12 ECTS
  • Project (individual process): 6 ECTS


This is a full-time programme. The activities have been scheduled over the course of the week (2 to 3 days) and include workshops, lectures, project preparation, project execution, supervision and feedback sessions. You will be expected to attend at least 80% of all the activities. 

• End of 1st quarter: Midterm presentation
• End of 1st quarter: Study trip to project (if possible)
• End of semester: Final presentation and final report