Melbourne vs Southern Randstad

Opportunistic Urbanism

Opportunistic Urbanism is a collaboration between Deltametropolis Association, Melbourne School of Design and TU Delft.


Opportunistic Urbanism is a studio that has evolved out of an ongoing conversation regarding the contrasts evident in the design and development of living and working environments in South Holland and Melbourne. Opportunistic Urbanism is  a masters level studio at the Melbourne School of Design, which proposes a two-way exchange between two contrasting metropolises: Melbourne, a sprawling monocentric city with a more flexible and ‘spontaneous’ city development model, and South Holland (the Southern Randstad), a polycentric urban region (comprising Rotterdam, Delft, the Hague and Leiden) with a state led and well-regulated model.

Responding opportunistically to a chance to collaborate with partners Deltametrapool and TU Delft, this cultural exchange aims to explore the outcomes of Melbourne’s dynamic market driven city form, whilst immersing students in the order and rigour of Dutch urban thinking. This new relationship offers an opportunity to explore hybrid urban thinking whilst maintaining a strong local focus in the ultimate design projects.

Students will develop multi-scalar individual projects as part of a cumulative body of work, which will feed in to emerging Australian and Dutch research projects. The design thesis is intended to be deployed as a tool for concurrent group and personal research. As a thesis project, we hope from the exposure to a hybrid Dutch / Australian mode of thinking that students might continue to explore themes developed within the studio through subsequent professional or academic pursuits.

Melbourne vs Southern Randstad

Melbourne is the world’s most liveable city and offers a promising example regarding urban development challenges, with less government control and a more flexible planning system. Set within the context of rapid population growth and a strong economy, a dynamic, opportunistic approach to development has emerged. This opportunistic approach leaves space for diverse actors, citizens, designers and entrepreneurs to come up with creative and innovative solutions to meet the challenges that this and other global metropolises are facing.

In the Southern Randstad by contrast, careful state-led planning – has led to high quality urban development offering affordable housing to a wide range of the Dutch society. However, during the crisis the role of the central government was challenged allowing more actors to be involved and creating space for more experimentation in the urban environment. Now that the crisis is over, Netherlands is catching up with the big need for new housing, mainly close to the existing cities. One million new houses need to be built till 2030 and one quarter of this demand needs to be accommodated in the area of Southern Randstad. This becomes a significant opportunity to use this big investment that will be done in the cities and urban landscapes in order to craft a more dynamic and resilient Dutch Metropolis.

The challenges of Southern Randstad invite the question as to whether lessons can be drawn from the dynamism of the Melbourne context. The studio is integrated within Deltametrapolis Association’s broader research agenda to promote the global attractiveness of the Southern Randstad ‘Delta City’ as a well-connected network of compact cities, which is comparable in size and population to Metropolitan Melbourne.

Travel to the Netherlands

During the two weeks in the Netherlands, students will participate in studio visits, workshops and field trips to exemplary projects by bike, rail and water bus. As this studio is open to both Master of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Master of Urban Design students, participants may choose to place more emphasis on the city regional and precinct level strategies, or the design of individual dwellings or building typologies. All projects must however incorporate a housing component. The studio outcomes are intended to contribute to the MSD Melbourne Housing Expo, promoting new ways of thinking about housing and living environments.


Three years of studio

Each year, Vereniging Deltametropool interestingly connected the studios to prominent ongoing projects in the Netherlands. In a way the exchange studio became a part or parcel of the larger project or program. This way it became easier for the students to understand the context more thoroughly and they could use the project analysis and results as their base study.

2016: The first year studio was organised as part of the ongoing project “Atlas Slimme Verstedelijking” (Atlas Smart Urbanisation) which investigates the underused potential that lies
in the existing urban areas. The outcome of this project, 6 inventory books that illustrate 3260 locations in the area of Southern Randstad with the possibility for (re-)development, formed the solid basis for the Master studio of Opportunistic Urbanism to take place at the University of Melbourne. To know more details about the debates and discussion, please follow.

2017: The studio has been designed to respond to the brief from Deltametropolis Association to explore alternative development scenarios for underutilised sites within the urban boundaries of Dordrecht and Rotterdam (two sites in each city). This year’s studio was based on the extensive research of Atlas Zuidelijke Randstand and Maak Plaats.  To know more details about the debates and discussion, please follow.

2018: The 2018 research project focuses on De Stad Van De Toekomst or ‘City of the Future’ project. The exercise is to explore within a case study 1km x 1km urban block how Dutch cities can rapidly transition their energy, waste and other urban systems as a showcase to meet the challenges of the future. To know more details about the debates and discussion, please follow.

End Debate

As a closing event of the two-week workshop on Opportunistic Urbanism, with students from Melbourne University and TUDelft, Deltametropolis Association organises an afternoon in which participants from diverse backgrounds, working in the field of urban development, will exchange their knowledge and experience with international guests. Through presentations, site visits and discussion, we seek answers to the following question:

What are the opportunities and what are the challenges in the Netherlands as well as in Melbourne for a rising model of Opportunistic Urbanisation?


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