Stretching metropolitan regions

The New Planning Dialogue #4 - Reporting back

01 april 2020

As the fourth step of ‘The New Planning Dialogue’, a masterclass was organised called ‘Stretching Metropolitan Regions’ by Vereniging Deltametropool in collaboration with METREX, Studio Hartzema and hosted by l’Institut Paris Region, in the French capital.

On 2nd march 2020, it was a productive afternoon with many insightful discussions to further The New Planning project. Along with the participants, we discussed the importance of the metropolitan regional scale in planning through an interactive dialogue with narratives from different case studies. The session was organised with 35 participants coming from different European Metropolitan Regions. Three regions of the Netherlands was represented, as well as Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, United Kingdom and Spain with a sectoral focus in 10 different metropolitan regions.

Along with an expert audience of planners, policy makers and academicians, the ambitions of this ‘one afternoon dialogue’ was to share knowledge, create good narratives and specify aspects of typologies in search of apt solutions for the Metropolitan Regional scale.



During this workshop concentrated on the scale of Metropolitan Regions and their approaches. This regional context gave us the opportunity to open up to the European context and explore and learn from the diversity in planning approaches depending on the political and geographical frame. The dialogue alternates presentation and discussions about typologies, set-up, approaches and collaborations, as resumed here.

stretching metropolitan regions

How and Who?

The workshop consisted of three different “discussions sessions” with relevant speakers depending on the theme, able to study and exchange about the Metropolitan Region they are representing.

First session:

What is the metropolitan scale? And what are the concepts and practices, the future challenges and what changed in the overall planning of metropolitan regions?

Vivianna Rubbo gave an introduction of her research work, as Bernd Steinacher Fellowship researcher at Metrex; on a broad overview of the agenda and questions that the analysis of European Metropolitan Regions brought up. The understanding of “how the territorial reality can be aligned with the governance structures” is the goal of the many efforts undertaken so far and explored in this research. Lawrence Barth reflected on the presentation, what changed in the overall planning of Metropolitan Regions in the recent years. ANCI (Associazione Nazionale Comuni Italiani), joined the conversation via skype regarding the institutional approach of the Italian cities and the structured working methods towards challenges.

Viviana Rubbo presented the overview of metropolitan regional typologies


Second session:

Planning focus: Strategic and/or Spatial planning?

How are the metropolitan regions determining their focus on planning approaches? Whether spatial planning or strategic planning should be the focus on this scale of effect? Should the metropolitan scale contemplate both strategic and spatial planning?

The discussion went parallel with the cases of Frankfurt (Reinhard Henke) and Paris (Paul Lecroart), which focuses are on the development of spatial planning decisions and strategic steps towards the developments. The Metropolitan region of Torino (Claudia Fassero) could briefly attend the discussion via Skype and talked about the economic, social and urban development in Torino in a homogenous manner.

Paris focused on the infrastructural aspects with Grand Paris redevelopment, Brownfield regeneration, Europacity- Greenfield Megaprojects and bottom up park oriented Regeneration. Frankfurt Rhein Main on the other hand focused on the political and institutional developments that impacts the territorial decision for the regional authority.

These presentations and comparisons raised questions such as how Metropolitan regions actually determine their focus on planning approaches, whether spatial planning or strategic planning should be the focus on this scale. Obviously, the differences in political and geographical setting helps contextualizing these contrasted planning approaches.

Paul Lecroart presenting the Paris metropool region.

Third session:

The formation of Metropolitan Regions.

How are the metropolitan regions being formed? What models of metropolitan regions are being followed? How does the Metropolitan dimension take form in the flexible setting? How the democratic decisions are being tasks at the metropolitan scale? What are the relations between the political and economic framework at this scale? Which different approaches does the metropolitan region act in in a similar context?

Brainport Eindhoven strategy by Joan van Dijk and Ton Pulles

For this last discussion, Metropolitan region of Amsterdam (David Quarles van Ufford), Metropolitan region of Rotterdam Den Haag (Pim uitjedewilligzen, Stephan Bekx) and Metropolitan region of Eindhoven (Joan van Dijk and Ton Pulles) to joined the debate. Throughout their presentation we could understand how these Metropolitan regions formed themselves and with which objectives, how abstract and problematic the relation between the political and economic framework remains at this scale and what type of actions can be expected from a Metropolitan region to another. Being in the same context/ country, the scale and the approach of these metropolitan regions differs impressively. Amsterdam focuses on the seven step actions plan and 56  smaller practical project approach, while Rotterdam-Den Haag focuses on a complete urbanization alliance throughout the region in regard with mobility and economic development. On the other hand Eindhoven is focusing on the strategy of smart and brainport region as a cooperative between private and public parties.


To reflect and conclude the afternoon, John Worthington from London, Alain Thierstein from Munich and Rudiger Ahrend from the OECD wrapped up the conversation by introducing inspiring open questions on which we should all reflect on. John emphasized on understanding the differences and process between ambitions to expectations. Alain projected the ideology of ‘Structure follows Strategies’ and how a network approach creates more impact. At the end, Rudiger concluded the session saying, Metropolitan regions is the most important scale for public transport and environmental urgencies and there will be no solution that fits all metropolitan regions. While working on visions or strategizing for regional scale, it is necessary to sharpen the focus between Bottom-up/ Top-down, formal/informal structure, simplicity/ complexity and adding up the factors of success, time and geography. The conversation ended at the note of ‘Housing might be needed to be added in the scope of metropoolregions’ as a food for thought.

Following are some interesting reads, provided by Rudiger Ahrend from his OECD  documents on Metropolitan governance that may be of interest to the workshop participants.

— a report called “Governing the City” and link to the policy highlights of this report for those with little time to read.
— an EU-Vox blog on why metropolitan governance matters, read here.

We had a lot of interesting discussions and we are working on the outcomes and reflections from the event. Thank you to all our participants and collaborators who joined us at L’Institut Paris Region.

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