Spacelab is a research and teaching laboratory set up to investigate the city as a spatial framework of living urban societies, economies and cultures, and as the transforming landscape of a transforming everyday life. We are interested in ideas of the space, dynamism and change of the city and try to develop these ideas so they may be interesting and useful to spatial planners and urban designers. We work by tracing the real-life dynamics of real cities and metropolitan areas and developing space-time models of neighborhoods, cities and whole metropolitan landscapes on this basis. We look at the way ideas of community, society, culture and economy may be articulated in these dynamic patterns and develop spatial strategies to affect or steer urban development to social, economic, cultural and sustainability ends. We try to understand the changing character of specific locations and regions in the context of the space-time transformation processes of the city as a whole.
We start from the position that we live in the ‘complete urbanization’ Henri Lefebvre spoke of already in 1970. We understand urbanization as the spread of the ways of life and the material substance of cities over the earth – as evidenced by the famous NASA photograph of the world at night. But we take it also to be part of the way that human beings have fabricated their world through history and made it coherent and inhabitable; not just as part of an explicit planning process but as part of the way they have constructed the world to orders that have made it part of everyday lives and available to our experience and action. We believe that careful and considered urbanization, as a means of organizing and managing limited spatial and material resources, and containing the spread of our ecological footprint, is still the way to a sustainable future for human beings on this planet. This is a political as well as a technical task and will require changes in the way we take responsibility for the world around us, but these changes will come as they are forced on us by the crises of sustainability and the justice of distribution.
We work all over the world but from the Netherlands and from Europe; and we see hopeful indications towards the future in some of the concerns and priorities of European spatial planning, and more especially in the way the urbanized landscape of the Netherlands has been built and sustained as a cultural landscape over time. We live in a natural world become culture and have to begin to understand the way this changes our role in this world from that of exploiters of the natural world to sustainers, maintainers and guardians of a cultural one.
Spacelab is part of the chair of Spatial Planning and Strategy and we work in partnership with the chairs of Urban Design and Architectural Theory. We carry out research within the ULab and Randstad research programs. We also teach with our partners in the MSc Urbanism program, taking on graduating (semester 3 and 4) students as assistants in research, developing and applying methods for analysis and strategies for the development of different locations around the world.