The Formative Years of the Dutch Town Planning Movement (1850-1950)

A.J.J. van der Valk

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Spatial planning is planned government intervention in the use of private and public land. In the Netherlands this activity has a long history going back to the middle of the nineteenth century. The notion currently used for this practice i.e. spatial planning (in Dutch: ruimtelijke ordening), became common only after the Second World War. Before that time ‘urban expansion’ (in Dutch: stadsuitbreiding) and ‘town planning’ (in Dutch: stedenbouw) respectively were used. (Faludi & Van der Valk, 1994; Needham, 2007). In this paper a number of milestones in the history of government policy and the discipline will be considered. In addition, attention will be paid to the ideals of professionals and the development of a programme for proper town (and country) planning in practice. Planning is the work of mankind. Plans and projects reflect opinions and decisions of administrators, ordinary people and experts. The thoughts and deeds of Dirk Hudig, the pioneer of modern spatial planning in the Netherlands, are sketched out by way of illustration. Being a spider in a web of international experts he was the driving force behind the landmark 1924 international town planning conference in Amsterdam. (Dings, 2010, 32; De Ruijter, 1987, 152) In this paper Hudig is portrayed as an exponent of a movement that flew the flag for ‘make-ability’ of society. The starting point for this treatise is the topical question of assessing the current and future role of spatial planning in large societal projects in the Netherlands, e.g. the management of urban growth and sustainable spatial adaptation strategies to climate change. The question implies contemporary dissatisfaction with and doubt about the possibilities of manageability of spatial developments in the country formerly known as ‘Planner’s Paradise’. (Faludi & Van der Valk, 1994, xiii) Part of the answer is rooted in the history of the profession
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Centenary of Spatial Planning in Europe
EditorsJ. Teixeira
Place of PublicationBrussels
PublisherECTP-CEU; Editions Outre Terre
Number of pages249
ISBN (Print)9789994931484
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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