Landscapes of Trade

PhD project update

13 april 2022

Spatial impacts, opportunities and challenges of logistics have become a hot item in the planner's and research debates. PhD project Landscapes of Trade investigates the planning narratives, underlying public-private actor mechanisms and socio-economic patterns of the Dutch logistics complex. In the project, Merten Nefs attempts to outline critical spatial factors for the planning and regional design of sustainable logistics clusters. This update hightlights key academic and professional activities of the last couple of years.

Research output

The project is centred around four interdisciplinary papers, discussing various facets of the logistics complex: spatial planning and development, governance and spatial economics. Two are already accessible below; the coming papers will address logistics employment and circular economy.

Peer-reviewed open-access papers

Merten Nefs, Wil Zonneveld & Paul Gerretsen (2022) The Dutch ‘Gateway to Europe’ spatial policy narrative, 1980–2020: a systematic review,
Planning Perspectives
, DOI:10.1080/02665433.2022.2053879

Merten Nefs & Tom Daamen (2022) Behind the Big Box: Understanding the Planning-Development Dialectic of Large Distribution Centres in Europe,
European Planning Studies,



Data underlying the papers above are published at the 4TU repository, as well as an open Geodata set including ca. 27 thousand logistics buildings in the Netherlands, already used by several researchers and journalists.

Nefs, Merten (2022): Dutch Distribution Centers 2021 Geodata. 4TU.ResearchData. Dataset. DOI:10.4121/19361018

The data are visualized in an interactive online map viewer and infographics application. A short exploratory article on the mapping of distribution centres was published in Portus Portrait Rotterdam (2021).

Typology of distribution centre developments Typology of distribution centre developments.

Professional output

The project enhanced the practicioner’s debate by initiating or participating in design-oriented research activities, publications, events and public/private knowledge networks. A full list of activities is available at the Landscapes of Trade webpage.


Design-oriented research

(X)XL data and distribution centres in Flevoland (2022) In collaboration with Urban Synergy. Commissioned by Flevoland province. Report expected in May.

Duurzaam Distributielandschap [Sustainable Landscape of Logistics] (2021) In collaboration with Defacto Urbanism, Ministry of I&W and the cities of Tilburg, Nijmegen and Venlo. Financed by Creative Industries Fund Netherlands. Read more and download report (NL).


Selected media articles

The project has contributed to a more nuanced and critical public debate via Dutch media channels such as Financieel Dagblad, NRC Handelsblad, Pointer/Nieuwsuur and Investico/Groene.

Turning the tide of the big box warehouse landscape (2022) TUDelft faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment. Read article (EN)

Big box warehouse special, including an interview and data visualization (2022) NRC Handelsblad (NL)

Nederland Distributieland is versleten praatje [Gateway to Europe, an obsolete narrative] (2021) Opinion piece in Financieel Dagblad; related to earlier front page article on big box planning policy (NL)

Logistiek en de stad met elkaar verbinden – zo dan ze dat in Parijs [Integrating urban development and logistics – example from Paris] (2020) Analysis of Chapelle International project on (NL)


Selected events

Grip op grote bedrijfsvestigingen (2022) Part of NOVI-conference, in collaboration with BZK, on May 18th in Nieuwegein

Growing Green – Logistics Landscape (2021) Webinar (EN) with Clare Lyster (UI Chicago) and Tim Beckmann (Intospace)

Out of the Box (2020) Covid-proof debate (NL) featuring design research and politicians, with Architecture Centre Tilburg CAST

Bezorgd – debate on XXL logistics (2019) Debate (NL), in collaboration with Board of Government Advisors

Agrofood-manufacturing hub Agrofood-manufacturing hub.

Partners and supervisors

The PhD project is a collaboration of TUDelft Spatial Planning & Strategy, Erasmus School of Economics and the Deltametropolis Association. It is produced by Merten Nefs, and supervised by Wil Zonneveld (promotor), Frank van Oort (2nd promotor), Tom Daamen (copromotor) and Paul Gerretsen (advisor). In the project, changing collaborations have been established with VU Amsterdam, Erasmus UPT, Greenport Venlo, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, as well as several representatives of the logistics industry and governmental organizations.

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