Public Spaces and Urban Resilience: state of affairs in Dutch cities and exploring human and non-human perspectives


This collection of articles contains contributions to the research project ‘From Prevention to Resilience’ (FPtP). In this project, the research team has generated insights and tools for designers, policymakers, and other professionals to contribute to more resilient cities and neighborhoods.

The point of departure was public space as a site for intervention, while learning from the ongoing developments revolving around the Covid-19 pandemic. During the early phases of the pandemic, governments initially focused on preventing the virus from spreading. Public spaces came to be seen as potential places for contamination. In response, fences, markings, and barrier tapes were put into place to orchestrate people’s movement and promote physical distance. With our research project, we explored the role that public space could play besides such often ad hoc preventive measures. What other challenges can public space tackle with regard to the various shocks and stressors that hit cities and neighborhoods, now and in the future? And how to tackle these challenges in an integral way? An integral approach to designing public spaces involves many disciplines, and it is to a great extent dependent on local governments’ take on public spaces. To this end, we asked relevant experts to share their disciplinary reflections on a design perspective we have developed in the FPtP project, called Human / Non-Human Public Spaces. An earlier version of this design perspective was handed over to experts to provide feedback from an urban climate adaptation perspective and from a governance and cultural change perspective. Stephanie Erwin and Jeroen Kluck provide concrete feedback on the design perspective and offer a discussion in relation to the field of urban climate resilience. Alex Straathof offers an essayistic text in which he reflects on some of the key notions of the design perspective, reflecting on some of the key notions of the design perspective based on cultural theory and his experience with interventions on the neighborhood level. In parallel, we commissioned two independent experts in the field of spatial development and governance to make a preliminary analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on the government perspectives on public spaces. Both experts were given the same question, but they applied different methods. Hugo Verschoor Plug conducted an analysis on two national policy documents and six ‘omgevingsvisies’ – i.e., strategies on spatial planning and the environment – of large and middle-sized cities: Amsterdam, Breda, The Hague, Groningen, Rotterdam and Zwolle. Denise Vrolijk was asked to interview professionals from a cross-section of Dutch Cities in order to obtain their perspectives on how local governments viewed the role of public spaces in relation to resilience. Together, these analyses provide an overview of the current state of affairs in public space and urban resilience. We thank the authors for sharing their expertise and insights and thereby contribute to the FPtR project. This project is funded by The Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMw), part of the subsidy round ‘COVID 19: Maatschappelijke Dynamiek’, project nr. 10430032010029.

Reference Boon, B., de Waal, M., & Suurenbroek, F. (Eds.) (2023). Public Spaces and Urban Resilience: state of affairs in Dutch cities and exploring human and non-human perspectives. (1.0 ed.) Hogeschool van Amsterdam.
1 February 2023

Publication date

Feb 2023


Boudewijn Boon


Research database