Q-factor: Dutch Spatial Quality Advisory Practices

Sandra van Assen, José van Campen & Egbert Stolk


This AESOP conference paper addresses spatial quality advisory practices in the Netherlands. In our paper we introduce the emerging practice of spatial quality teams (q-teams) in the Netherlands as a subject of both planning and spatial design research. We aim to contribute to the international discourse on design review and further development of spatial quality advisory practices. The research, involving 139 q-teams, indicates that the Dutch q-teams and their ‘fuzzy legality’ (Cohn, 2001) are an important aspect of Dutch planning culture since 1990. Q-teams build on the tradition of aesthetic advisory committees, but have a broader scope and more discretionary space. The Dutch spatial quality advisory practice has added new methods to the existing systems of design review and aesthetic control. In our view the Dutch spatial quality advisory practice is an expression of the indicative and collaborative planning and design culture and is not due to specific regulations. We argue that the recent Dutch q-teams can offer a hub of professional creativity and knowledge, a deliberative stage and a political environment to discuss spatial quality as a public value. This paper provides an overview of the characteristics of q-teams and discusses how to assess their impact. We conclude with a research agenda aimed at a theoretical framework to assess the performance and conformance (Faludi, 1973, 1987, 2000; Faludi & Altes, 1994) of q-teams, and understanding of the importance and role of public value, expertise, designerly and plannerly ways of knowing.

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