Tanja Herdt is an Associate Professor of Urban Design in the Department of Urbanism at TU-Delft. She is both an academic and a practicing urban designer with an emphasis on urban transformation, methods of urban analysis, and history and theory of the city. Tanja’s work links theories and methods from architectural history and anthropology to investigate questions of equality, power, ecology, and social change in the built environment. Tanja received her doctorate from the Department of Architecture at ETH Zurich, where she also worked as head of research for sustainable settlement design at the research centre ETH-CASE. In her work she focuses on theories and methods that uncover the dependencies of social practices and urban form, the future design of housing and public space, and the influence of digitalization on city design. Her work on Cedric Price was published under the title The City and the Architecture of Change at Park Books.
This paper analyzes public debates around land use and densification in Switzerland and the Netherlands to understand how private and public interests are related in the context of urban growth. It is based on the hypothesis that, while there is consensus on the desirability of densification, its implementation can lead to tensions on a local level. Therefore, the acceptance of densification is considered essential for successful implementation. We report on quantitative and qualitative discourse analysis covering public media outlets between 2010 and 2019. During this period, both Switzerland and the Netherlands implemented policies to limit land take and promote densification. Focusing on indicators of spatial equity, we examined the debates in terms of distributive and procedural dimensions of justice. The results show that the debate in both countries revolved primarily around private interests related to ownership, property value, and character of place. Most debates documented the interests of insiders and, in particular, revealed the NIMBY effect (for “not in my back yard”) associated with issues of change in the built environment. Public interests and the interests of outsiders, in contrast, were rarely considered in the debates. In addition, we find that, in the face of impending building change, arguments often reflected conflicting social values, such as perceived restrictions on choice, fears of increased social division, and lack of community.