Mid-Size Utopia

Nederland, NL

What kind of spatial policy does a medium-sized city need?

Around the Randstad lies a ring of medium-sized cities. They are attractive because they unite the best of both worlds: a pleasant, varied living environment embedded in a beautiful landscape, with urban facilities, plenty of jobs, and easy accessibility. Their increasing popularity and growth, however, have made them part of urbanised regions and brought them into competition with each other. Apparently, the local networks now form disjointed regional networks.

Mid-Size Utopia is a design study of seven of these regions. How can we ensure that they function better?

Mid-Size Utopias are the medium-sized cities that form a ring around the Randstad, from Zwolle to Breda. Whatever is not within reach in your own region can be found by driving for an hour or two to one of the three nearby metropolitan regions: the Randstad, the Flemish Diamond or the Ruhr.

The seven regions analysed in the study

There is a major housing challenge due to prosperity and city popularity

Bind new generations to the region, for example through the presence of educational institutions

Four basic principles for designing on a regional scale

The Vallei region has opted for a clear economic profile with Food Valley

Use mobility networks as guiding regional elements: Public transport networks

Slow networks

Road networks

The research worked its way from coarse to fine. This method is not the perfect solution, but it does offer an opportunity to keep a grip on the regional scale. Design is conceived as a combination of spatial organising and shaping.

We identify three steps:

  1. Concept: positioning region in relation to the context; formulation of goals and ambitions; a spatial organisational concept with a definition of the main structure and an economic, socio-cultural profile
  2. Design: translation of regional concept into topography, interests and local qualities
  3. Crucial details: elaborating crucial interventions as projects; freedom of form as long as the formulated goals and ambitions on a regional scale remain intact

Design exploration at project level: Busslo regional park links recreation and tourism

Design exploration on a national scale: future perspective of ‘Stromenland’ identifies five separate regions

Mid-Size Utopia

Mid-Size Utopia is a design-oriented research project looking at the emerging dynamic regions in the lee of the Randstad. Mid-Size Utopias are the cities located in a ring around the Randstad, from Zwolle to Breda. Once, they were ideal Dutch cities of about 100,000 inhabitants. But these cities have now become part of urbanised regions, in which they are no longer the only core. As a result, the cities compete with each other to offer the most pleasant business climate.

A leap of scale is necessary. Rather than talking about the accommodation of the programme, we can better focus on improving the functioning of the region. As structuring regional elements, the research focuses on mobility networks: road networks, public transport networks and connections for slow traffic.

The study distils four basic principles for design on a regional scale: creating robust networks; increasing the variety and quality of urban environments; developing mass in the most accessible places; and orienting the city towards the street.


Mid-Size Utopia
Nederland, NL
Zwolle Kampen Netwerkstad, Stedendriehoek, de Vallei, Stadsregio Arnhem Nijmegen, Stadsregio Eindhoven, West Brabant, Noordoost
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