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In 2010 the Netherlands brought an end to fifty years of centralised spatial planning. Since then, spatial planning has followed the credo ‘decentralise where possible, centralise where necessary’. What are the results of this policy after six years and what new relationships has it created? Who dictates the Netherlands’ spatial planning today and what drives them?

With the conviction that spatial planning concerns everyone and cannot be left solely to market players and assertive citizens, Het Nieuwe Instituut is teaming up with Elma van Boxel & Kristian Koreman (ZUS) and Stephan Petermann (OMA/AMO) to organise a series of discussions around the creation of a new Ministry for Spatial Affairs: a ministry that believes that its policy must have a basis in a vision with a broad consensus. Especially now that technological changes and social and economic issues extend far beyond our borders, a jointly formulated perspective is more urgent than ever.

The discussions concern what the new ministry needs to know and what it can do. The discussions will be conducted among a diverse group of people with different expertise and backgrounds.


‘Mankind is not only the driving force in the development of his field but is also the aim of spatial planning. In this aspect of government policy, the ongoing aim is to ensure that the environment fosters human prosperity and happiness.’ First policy document on spatial planning in the Netherlands (1960)

The first discussion is about happiness, a subject that played a central role in the government’s first policy documents on spatial planning but which has since then faded into the background. Although several years ago the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte argued that it was not the job of the state to be a ‘happiness machine’, the subject is being raised in many other countries’ government policy. What precisely is (un)happiness? And if its possible to know that, what influence does the environment have on this? Should a Ministry of Spatial Affairs aim to promote happiness?

The Ministry of Spatial Affairs is being organised in partnership with Elma van Boxel & Kristian Koreman (ZUS) and Stephan Petermann (OMA/AMO).

Yttjes Feddes

Yttje Feddes is a garden and landscape architect. In 2006 she and Berdie Olthof founded Feddes/Olthof Landschapsarchitecten. She also teaches and sits on various committees, advisory boards and juries. Between 2008 and 2012 she was the State Advisor for Landscape, during which time she witnessed the dismantling of the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment.

Damiaan Denys

Damiaan Denys is a Flemish psychiatrist, philosopher and theatre maker. He believes that if there’s one word that sums up the world we live in, it is fear.  In his book Angstparadox (Fear Paradox) and his theatre monologue Van Angst naar Vrijheid (From Fear to Freedom) he proposes that we should not sacrifice our freedom to fear, but vice versa. But do we dare to do that?

Jan Fokkema

Jan Fokkema has been director of the Association of Dutch Project Developers (NEPROM) since 1999. In 2016 NEPROM presented its future vision for living, working and shopping under the title Ruimte maken voor het Nationaal Geluk (Making Room for National Happiness).

Sander Pleij

Sander Pleij has been appointed registrar of the ministry. He writes about art and books for Vrij Nederland. He previously wrote for De Groene Amsterdammer. Together with Joeri Boom, he won the Gouden Pennetje for journalism. In 2014 he won the Mercur award for best magazine reportage of the year.

Tonny Wormer

Tonny Wormer is the strategist behind the marketing concepts for the cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam. She is the founder of the advisory bureau Bientôt and has made a plan for the establishment of a Ministry of Happiness.

Ries van der Wouden

Ries van der Wouden is a political scientist and head of the Department of Spatial Planning and Quality of the Local Environment within the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. His recent book De ruimtelijke metamorfose van Nederland 1988-2015 (The Spatial Metamorphosis of the Netherlands 1988-2015) is a critical reflection on development in the Netherlands since the introduction of the Vierde Nota in 1988.

19:30 – 21:00

Het Nieuwe Instituut
Museumpark 25
3015 CB Rotterdam

Thursday Night at Het Nieuwe Instituut
Luca Napoli

Thursday Night Live! is a weekly programme of lectures, screenings and discussions on architecture, design and digital culture. Developments and critical insights are discussed by thinkers, designers and makers from the Netherlands and abroad.