#enduringcity – Bring about real change

Just talking about change does not lead to actual change. An enduring city is one that is adaptive, nature-based, inclusive and circular, but without critical reflection and a proper definition, these terms mean very little. In our previous four blogs, we therefore established a general understanding of what an enduring city is and what it should look like. The goal is clear, time is ticking and we are inspired to contribute to the enduring city – but how can we as designers actually bring about change?

Taking action towards enduring cities requires a ‘think big, act small’ approach. While this line of thinking is well embedded in the field of urban design, a too clear distinction is frequently made between long-term ambitions and short-term actions. We tend to forget that ambition and action are not opposed to each other. It is not think big or act small, but these are needed at the same time. Together, small steps and actions today lead to tomorrow's bigger picture: a sustainable city in 2050.

From small to large scale actions

Urban designers can respond in many ways to the four enduring city themes that we discussed in our blogs. At the core lays an integral approach to design. This means that relevant systems – such as climate, mobility, material flows and energy – must all be considered from the start of every project. In addition, experts from multiple disciplines should be invited at an early stage of a project to help think about how the different systems can work in synergy. Especially in the Netherlands, natural systems such as soil, water and biotopes, had to give way to forms of urbanization, so special attention must be given to these systems. Local residents and entrepreneurs and the experience of urban spaces by their local users must also be included. In short, the enduring city requires an expansion of our field of knowledge. This applies to all different scales on which urban designers operate; public space design, spatial frameworks and (regional) strategies. On any scale, every small step contributes to the enduring city, which gives us as urban designers all the more reason to make them concrete.

Small-scale action: Public space designs

Small-scale plots are part of larger systems. Therefore, the natural and artificial systems in design plots should be thoroughly mapped, both above and below ground. By collaborating with experts from other disciplines, we learn how different elements from different systems influence small-scale design and vice versa. For example, the location of underground pipes influences where trees can be placed. The placement of the trees in turn influences how heat stress in urban areas can be tackled. It is thus important to understand the synergies to establish holistic design solutions that work well for all the different systems involved.

On the scale of public space, many nature-inclusive design principles are directly applicable in design projects. For instance, by designing nesting areas and facilities for small animals, birds and insects, we can increase biodiversity. In addition, designers can contribute to enduring cities by staying up to date on the latest nature-based materials and solutions. This practical knowledge can be integrated to practical policy guides and municipal guides for public space.

Medium-scale action: Spatial frameworks

One of the actions that can be taken on the medium scale is to design robust frameworks that can be filled in flexibly towards the future. Applying insights from both the smaller and larger scale projects and ambitions is of great importance here. This way, the knowledge of current and future developments on the scale of buildings, building blocks or public space can be used to design a framework that makes sense in its context. The ambitions of professionals must be taken into account, but also the ambitions of residents and local entrepreneurs. As leas as important is collaborating with financial experts to come to alternative calculation methods, which are based on more than just the financial benefits that urban development can provide. At the same time, coming from the larger scale, insights from overarching strategies are applied to frameworks to give abstract ambitions a concrete place.  

Large-scale action: Design strategies

On a large scale, designers can use extreme future design scenarios as a method to visualize potential futures and stimulate the debate around enduring cities. During design sessions, urban designers use their skills to visualize complexities and facilitate a creative process between different parties involved. To drive action, future design scenarios can suggest small, first steps toward a preferred scenario by pointing out key locations and key development projects.


To achieve enduring cities by 2050, we have provided several concrete design tools that help urban designers to take action at any scale. Mastering these tools helps to contribute to realizing enduring cities. The main takeaway from this blog is that change does not happen on its own – collaboration between and with all kinds of parties is necessary to bring about real change. In this way, an integrated approach can be applied to the various challenges we face on the road to enduring cities.