What Indian planning norms & development regulations can learn from the Netherlands

I’ve have been working in the Netherlands for a longer period now than I have been in India. But to witness the two completely different approaches to the way architecture and the larger activity of city-building is carried out in both the contexts is an immense learning process in itself. While both the contexts are drastically different in every aspect imaginable, there are nevertheless some important lessons to take from in the way the built environment is created in the Netherlands. Not an extensive list by any chance but a few things from the top of my mind:
As an architect,  I come across this attitude to collaborate in tangible terms in the way a masterplan is used for various developments specifically for larger urban developments. Although many examples that I explain here are urban in nature, the same could be applied for landscape and land management. As I understood upon arrival in the Netherlands, the whole country is but a grand project considering a sizable portion of it is below sea level.

A masterplan - ‘an opener of opportunities’

Single-use zoning is an ancient remnant of the early 19th century industrial cities and very much detached from the way the we inhabit and experience our contemporary cities. A city that is mixed-use is an active city, an active city is a lively city and a lively city is a safe city. Urban planning and architecture in the Netherlands acknowledge and engage with the city spatially compared to the 2-dimensional zoning prevalent in Indian planning. A mixed-use urban development acknowledges this. A more mixed use city, therefore, translates into a compact and an efficient city tackling urban sprawl and ensuring the maximum use of resources. In the Netherlands, It is not uncommon for individual buildings let alone urban areas to house a vast variety of programs many times complementing each other.

Studio Nine Dots, DELVA Landscape Architects/Urbanism, Skonk, Nelissen Ingenieursbureau, Synchroon; Pompenburg, Rotterdam. Image Source

Adopt a system based approach to development:

The Netherlands as a country with a sizable portion of its land below the sea-level, it is imperative to have a grasp on the overall picture. The result is an overarching approach to the development of the built and the natural environment alike that integrates various fields such as landscape, water, waste and energy management, transportation, local economy and such.
While in India, save for very rare instances, developments are secluded, confined to the plot boundary and are therefore insulated from the rest of the city. The result is a city which is a collection of gated communities connected by indifferent infrastructure.

A vision for the city

One of the greatest difference I see between India and the Netherlands is how much effort a municipality in a Dutch city invests in crafting a vision for the city’s future in consultation with stake holders, experts and residents. The city, beyond crafting a vision, also heavily engages/collaborates with the relevant parties – architects, developers, stake holders – to see through the vision. For example, the city I live in, Rotterdam, hosts the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR) which not only brings in different architects, city planners and the likes but also engages as a testing ground for the various ideas and directions that the city might initiate and move towards.
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