T. Broekmans

Professor of Urban Design
Department of Urbanism

How does urban design contribute to a transformation into an equitable and sustainable city? Tess Broekmans focuses on the impact of major transition challenges on the daily life of residents and the physical appearance of the city. 

Tess Broekmans’ research focuses on urban transformation and the role of design in such transformations. How can we develop solutions for the major challenges of today within the context of the day-to-day living environment? To do so, designers must have insight into the mechanisms leading to the city. One aspect that occupies her is the manner in which design can guide this process. ‘Urban design is a “slow” discipline. The city that we build today was often designed 10 years ago. A design must be able to respond to changes, in particular now that changes are occurring increasingly rapidly. What is the essence that needs to be maintained, and where is flexibility needed?’

How then?

The question of ‘how’ is central to her research: how do we translate abstract challenges into concrete designs? ‘We know that change is needed but not how to implement it. As an urban designer, you often become involved early on in the planning process, when there are still many options open. What choices do you then make? I tackle such questions together with students. How do you reach the essence of the challenge, and how do you then translate the challenge into physical three-dimensional space?’ Sharing and feedback are central to how she works. Tess Broekmans’ design method consists of four steps: sense (observing), design (translating the challenge into design), act (impact and handover), and reflect (appropriate answer to the challenge). 

Practice and teaching

As a partner at Urhahn Urban Design, Tess Broekmans works on complex inner-city projects. She prefers doing so together with residents and businesses, as they are the users and therefore intimately familiar with the area. Her work varies from an inner-city transformation at Oostenburg in Amsterdam to revitalising the inner city of Doetinchem. Tess is guest lecturer at the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture and the University of Lund in Sweden. 

To have the most impact on as large a group of students as possible, Broekmans assumes the role of 'visiting critic’ at key moments, thereby energising design groups. She also looks for ways to collaborate with other disciplines and practical work activities in order to show that practical work and research need each other to build further on an equitable urban environment. Tess Broekmans