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On Thursday 7 December, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving) organised a hackathon on the future of urban development, infrastructure and mobility. For this event PBL invited two DAE students: Bart Vernooij and Beer Holthuis.


Four teams of two students/young professionals were asked to propose four developments that could have a big impact on the future planning, design and use of the urban space, infrastructure and mobility in the Netherlands in 2050. The teams chose to elaborate adaptation to climate change; robotisation; circular economy; and data-driven smart urbanisation.

The hackathon was part of a 24-hour research event in which some 25 professionals from different domains gathered in Hotel De Wageningsche Berg to work on future scenarios that PBL will publish in 2018. The input provided by the hackathon teams was used by the scenario teams to think through what extreme developments can imply for each of ‘their future cities’.

DAE’s students were invited by DAE Reader in Places and Traces David Hamers, who’s also a senior researcher at PBL. Bart Vernooij and Beer Holthuis found the event ‘super inspiring’ and a ‘great success’. Bart indicates that he finds it urgent and exciting to deal with rapid changes in our society. According to him ‘care should be taken in tracking and predicting these changes. This is where politicians, researchers, scientists, planners and designers come in, working together to see where society is heading. This hackathon has been a really interesting example of the way these disciplines come together, in this case in the form of a speculative design approach.’

Bart explains what his team (including Rutger Klein (TU Eindhoven graduate)) worked on: ‘The internet becomes more and more intertwined with our daily lives, we can connect to virtually anybody, anywhere, at any time. At the same time people seem to be flocking to cities everywhere, leading to densely populated urban environments. In these environments space is scarce and therefore expensive. This leads to smaller housing, with less space for possessions, fewer parking spots and less road space for vehicles. Interestingly, we don’t seem to use the bulk of our possessions that much anyway, most cars for instance are only in use for about 5% of the time. The internet seems to provide a solution for this issue. Recently there has been a rapid growth of online property sharing platforms, where people rent or lend out their possessions to others, herewith bridging the gap between denser communities and a need for efficient use of our space, utilities and resources. We proposed a situation where the idea of material possession becomes obsolete altogether and where people spend their lives as ‘Urban Nomads’, renting or sharing whatever they need. We sketched out what our daily lives would look like and discussed various issues this system would raise, and how to potentially tackle these. Whether this situation is utopian or dystopian is for others to judge.’

Bart concludes: ‘Overall, this has been an extremely intense and inspiring experience. It was very refreshing to work and discuss with people from all kinds of work fields, providing a comforting check on the relevance of designers to society. Great success!’

Beer’s team (including Timo Maas (Rathenau Institute)) created a scenario where resources and energy would be scarce and valuable. ‘In this scenario we have limited trading and transportation over big distances due to true pricing and strict environmental rules. It isn’t possible to have the banana as our favorite fruit or have our products made in China anymore; we have to think more locally. Keeping production as close as possible to consumers is the new vision. Also, recycling becomes much more important, because materials are more and more valuable. Together with the local vision this creates promising possibilities for short chain recycling companies. Additionally, there is also a solution for long travels to work: using virtual reality. More and more people can work from home, and digitally visiting family and friends is very realistic and pleasant. In 2050 we will have close ties and we will be widely connected.’

Beer concludes: ‘It was a great experience to join the hackathon, brainstorming with people with different backgrounds is super inspiring!’

Published: 13-Dec-2017 21:05
  • DAE students took part in a hackathon on future cities by PBL

    Images: © / WING

  • DAE students took part in a hackathon on future cities by PBL

  • DAE students took part in a hackathon on future cities by PBL

  • DAE students took part in a hackathon on future cities by PBL