PhD research

overview under construction

Mapping Landscape Spaces

Interpretation, Measurement, and Evaluation of Spatio-visual Characteristics in Landscape Design


Mapping spatio-visual characteristics is important for understanding landscape spaces and crucial for landscape design. Therefore, developing design vocabulary and mapping methods, exploiting the capabilities of modern technology, to describe and interpret spatial and visual properties help spatial designers to achieve a better understanding of landscape compositions and enhance effective communication. The objective of this study is to identify and develop spatio-visual landscape characteristics for mapping landscape spaces. Research questions include 1. How to characterize spatial and visual landscape and what are potential key indicators for mapping landscape spaces? 2. How and what tools can be used to describe spatio-visual characteristics of the landscape? 3. How to use and evaluate the mapping results into design assignments? In order to answer the above questions, literature about the spatial and visual landscape characteristics and potential mapping methods are reviewed. The Vondelpark, a well-known urban park, serves as a case study for applications and experiments. Based on the theory, fieldwork and computational analysis, different mapping methods/techniques are used to describe landscape spaces. Then, in order to show how to use the clues into practices, two to three rounds of design assignments will be organized to meet different design intentions. In the end, an expert panel will be organized to evaluate and give suggestions to improve the findings of this research. Through mapping experiments, design assignments, and expert-judgment to evaluate and validate outcomes, the research results in a framework for mapping landscape spaces consisting of a systematic overview of traditional and new spatio-visual landscape characteristics and methods/techniques acquiring them, as well as applications on the Vondelpark enabling to evaluate and showcase possibilities.


PhD-candidate: Mei Liu
Supervision: Prof Dirk Sijmons, Dr Steffen Nijhuis
Period: September 2015 – September 2019
Funding: Chinese Scholarship Council & TU Delft

Adaptive African New Towns  

An Alternative Approach for Urban Development in Low-Resource Settings


New Towns in development across the African continent since 1990 are overwhelmingly designed and built according to urban planning models from the twentieth century. Although these typologies range from functionalist Chinese grids to American gated communities, the results are—with notable exceptions—New Towns with rigid physical infrastructure and strict building regulations, that do not support spatial manifestations of the ‘informal’ sector such as kiosks, spatial appropriation or mass transport. As a result, these New Towns become insular enclaves and informal settlements develop adjacently to them, without access to the services and amenities offered within the New Town. Coupled with the implicit vulnerabilities of emerging and threshold economies, the rigidity of the imported urban models and lack of consideration for climate change threats, exacerbate spatial segregation and respond ineffectively to surrounding natural landscapes. Building on the arguments that equal access to resources is a key component of sustainable development, and that urban planning benefits from new linkages between critical social theory and environmental science, this research proposes that applying adaptive urban planning principles to New Towns in the African context can increase ecological sustainability and social inclusivity. The objective of this research is therefore to address the spatial challenges of African New Towns by developing an alternative planning and design approach that acknowledges both social and environmental dimensions, as well as the constant state of change that all cities exhibit. To do so, this research develops and applies a set of landscape-based adaptive spatial planning principles that address the different capacities, requirements and resources of both planning institutions and residents.

PhD-candidate: Ir Rachel Keeton
Supervision: Prof Han Meyer, Prof Wouter Vanstiphout, Dr Steffen Nijhuis
Period: May 2016 – November 2020
Funding: TU Delft Global Initiative & International New Town Institute

Liveable Low-Carbon Cities

Synergetic Urban Landscape Planning in Rotterdam


Cities and metropolitan regions are responsible for approximately 75% of the CO2 emissions. They play a big role in the global greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time cities are vulnerable to effects of climate change such as flooding. The objective of this PhD research is to develop a framework for urban landscape planning for the transition towards a more sustainable city and explore potential synergies to improve the quality of life. This question is placed in a context of a ‘cities as urban ecosystems’ model. Quality of life can be divided into spatial, environmental, socio-economic and economic issues and synergies between them. As it is a broad topic to address, in this thesis it will be approached from the perspective of the ISO37120 standard: city indicators for city services and quality of life. To get a grip on this matter as well as to simplify the complexity of all interacting actors, the methodological framework is first used for sectoral research lenses chosen for the case study city Rotterdam. These lenses are: water, energy and nutrients (food). From this sectoral perspective synergy effects will be explored. For instance, solutions for water might as well incorporate strengthening of biodiversity (more gradients), infrastructure connections (new dikes also used for biking) and recreation (ponds). If the same is done for other sectors overlapping will occur over time. The research lens approach is an important part of the exploration strategy to look for potential synergies but also to explore new approaches to link urban metabolic flows to urban landscape planning. With the gained knowledge and implementation in the city of Rotterdam, a practical framework to reach liveable low-carbon cities will be built. This Framework links to the latest new insights on using city data, smart cities, urban metabolism, energy planning climate change and resilience. It is a translation from CO2 , energy and climate adaptation goals into spatial urban rules and principles.

PhD-candidate: Ir Nico Tillie
Supervision: Prof Andy v/d Dobbelsteen, Dr Steffen Nijhuis
Period: September 2012 – September 2018
Funding: Municipality of Rotterdam & TU Delft