Interdisciplinary approach

TU Delft’s Delta Infrastructure and Mobility Initiative stimulates interdisciplinary work on the reconstruction of infrastructure in urban deltas. Reconstruction of Yuriage after the 2011 tsunami was investigated by a group of students and staff from five disciplines: hydraulic engineering, geotechnical engineering, water management, transport and planning, and urbanism.
By understanding, analysing and discussing the scope of reconstruction solutions from the point of view of each discipline, as well as in a team consisting of all five disciplines, methods for interdisciplinary working were tested, learned and experienced. 

The interdisciplinary working is activated in the project by:

  • Workshops with charrette method,
  • Taking the same location, shared analyses, 
  • Taking interdisciplinary mentors in mentor teams,
  • Interdisciplinary project as glue for thesis projects,
  • Defining specific interdisciplinary subjects that are shared by master students,
  • Connecting to research by staff.

Charrette approach: Integration of information

The integration of information and ideas will be done using a method of charrette. With this method the first condition is a common understanding of the problem and context of the case. Then this understanding is connected to interdisciplinary knowledge fields and solutions in several rounds.  The first round of the charrette is the disciplinary focus in which the students in their comfort zone can elaborate on their knowledge of the proposed problem and their first ideas how to tackle these, which measures could be appropriate. The five groups set the conditions for further elaboration: the hydraulic engineers set the larger conditions from the hydraulic setting, the urban designers looked into the spatial quality of the site and formulated spatial strategies interventions that could help to improve this. The TIL students state how the transport system can be reconstructed (i.e. redesign) within the context of possible future disasters and evacuations as well as changes in landscape and population. The water management student will investigate how the urban water management system was reconstructed (i.e. redesigned) according to the latest principles of Climate Resilient and Water Sensitive Cities. How is the three-point approach applied and how are threshold, coping recovery and adaptive capacity developed in the new urban water system to reduce the vulnerability of the area and strengthen its services and qualities. The geotechnics students evaluate the seismic performance of the natural and manmade slopes in the region (such as the river embankments and the bordering slopes of elevated residential areas) and redesign the new geotechnical structures based on the measured and observed responses.
In the second (and sometimes multiple) rounds couples of disciplines are made confront the two perspectives and create a common understanding of connections and barriers.
In-between presentations are used for students to take notice of the similarities and difference between the groups to make new decisions in the follow up of their understanding.
The goal of the method is to first share what was learned by the lectures and discuss how this could play a role in final projects. Changing groups makes sure that a lot of ideas and information are shared and common good to be used in the proposals. This created a body of knowledge utilized from the whole group and available for the base groups.

Phasing of the project

Phase 1: Analyses & Synthesis 

After preparation in Delft, a group workshop held at Tohoku University aimed at studying how the reconstruction of Yuriage was planned and implemented, and at understanding where within a scope of interdisciplinary possibilities the reconstruction methods are positioned through a charrette method. This interdisciplinary scope of possibilities is built up from the scopes of disciplinary possibilities that are brought together in the charrette.
After multiple rounds of discussion, the groups generated frameworks showing the linkages among the disciplinary scopes, which enabled the students to analyze relations among disciplinary decisions to explain and assess the case from an interdisciplinary viewpoint.


1. Setting up information exchange.

2. Formulation of questions per discipline:

  • For their own field
  • What they would like to ask the other disciplines
  • What they can offer the other disciplines

3. Workshop 1: charrette confrontations of disciplinary questions: In five rounds the disciplines discuss these questions  

4. Preparing the projects

  • Interdisciplinary group: what is the line of questioning?
  • Thesis group: what can you cooperate on: research agenda. 

5. Workshop 2 The interdisciplinary groups present their research question and the thesis students present their research agenda

6. Workshop Sendai

Phase 2: Design

The frameworks were the base for spatial designs. Group A created a masterplan for Yuriage based on five design criteria: 100-year return period tsunami protection along the whole coast; 1000-year return period tsunami protection for residential areas; Connection to the sea; Nature integrated in design; and Multi-purpose spatial. These balance out multi-purpose and nature based urban design with engineering intervention. 
Group B focused their design on using a dune-in-dike solution near the shore, where the dune system also functions as the base for a coastal forest, which is a traditional Japanese tsunami protection technique integrated into the design.

The lessons learned from the Tsunami reconstruction process in Yuriage were then applied to the Dutch context. Vlissingen was chosen because of its comparable location, demographics and economic issues. To build back better, the whole group of students formulated two designs. Both incorporated multiple lines of defence as learned from Yuriage. Coastal dunes and dikes were combined with parking structures and promenades. Further inland, residential areas were physically elevated in one design, and in the other were combined with canals dug to lead floodwaters from storm surge or heavy rainfall to a sunken polder outside the city core. Road and rail transport arteries were designed to incorporate use for both daily life and evacuation.


1. Design workshop with the whole group to develop the strategy produced in Japan and either projected on Yuriage or another case, into a spatial plan

2. Developing the spatial plan on disciplinary components

3. Bringing together the disciplinary components together and review the plan

4. Finalization of the disciplinary parts

Phase 3: Production

The proposals for Vlissingen were elaborated on by the interdisciplinary project group in an iterative approach in which they would develop their part separately and bring it together again in two steps. This resulted in a final paper [link:

In addition to the big picture and detailed designs for Vlissingen, the group of MSc thesis students developed their individual thesis that addressed disciplinary topics in detail but in the context of the other disciplines.

[Urbanism] Nasiem Vafa

[Transport] Robert Möhring
Will follow soon

[Geo Engineering] Mustaqim
Will follow soon

[Urbanism] Jesse Dobbelsteen

[Transport] Marieke van Dijk

[Hydraulic engineering] Tony Glasbergen

overview paper:
Hooimeijer, F., Bricker, J., & Iuchi, K. (2018). An interdisciplinary approach to urban reconstruction after the 2011 tsunami. TU Delft Delta Links,