Randstad Holland: Multiple Faces of a Polycentric Role Model
The Randstad Holland is commonly portrayed as one of Europe’s most pronounced polycentric mega-city regions (MCRs). It combines a political capital, a financial capital, a cultural capital, first-class international gateway functions (the port of Rotterdam and Schiphol Airport) and a highly-skilled, cosmopolitan labour force. But these assets are not located in just one city as in London or Paris; they are distributed over a number of historically distinct cities in the western part of The Netherlands. Relationships between these cities date back centuries or more. Already in the 16th century, for example, excellent water-borne transport connections fostered the development of a marked division of labour between them, the remnants of which can still be traced today (‘t Hart, 1994; Kloosterman and Lambregts, 2001). Since then, however, complexity has increased enormously. Successive rounds of (global) economic restructuring have radically reshaped the area and still continue to redefine the roles and perspectives of both individual cities and the Randstad region as a whole. At the same time, the advance of motorized transportation has been a boon to (individualized) mobility, increasing the freedom of location for households and firms alike. Patterns of linkages and interdependencies between and among the cities, towns and villages of the Randstad area have correspondingly become more complex. As a result the Randstad has become a complex, multi-layered mosaic of places, markets and flows, rife with implicit and explicit intra-regional interdependencies and hierarchies and connected to the rest of the world in intricate ways. It can be argued that currently business services industries play the key role in the ongoing reconfiguration of the region’s
spatial appearance, its economic functioning and its incorporation in the global economy. After all, many service activities have recently been (and still are) among the fastest growing industries and are, moreover, subject to strong processes of globalization (UNCTAD, 2004). In this chapter we will explore the question: what does the functioning of the business services sector tell us about polycentricity in the Randstad and how do current policy frameworks relate to this?