The Randstad metropolitan region encompassing Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht in the western Netherlands is regarded worldwide as a model of a ‘successful’ polycentric metropolis. It is widely cited as an example of how a region of interconnected small cities can effectively compete globally by providing complementary functions which together match the power of large monocentric cities. The methods of strategic spatial planning, regional design and strategic projects that are said to underpin this polycentric metropolis are used as models for practitioners and students around the world.

But is this high reputation deserved? Does the Randstad really function as a polycentric metropolis? The operation of the Randstad as a polycentric networked region is controversial both in terms of the actual strength of relations between its component parts, and the value of promoting polycentricity in policy. What are the costs and benefits of a Randstad metropolis? Does polycentricity improve the performance of the region in economic, social and environmental terms? How has the polycentric metropolis evolved and what part is played by its delta location? Has spatial planning made a difference in the form and operation of the region today? How will this spatial configuration fare in the face of the climate crisis and need to create healthy cities and regions? Is there benefit in pursuing the idea of a polycentric metropolis in government policy and action, and how?

These questions are of critical interest within the Netherlands but experience in the Randstad offers valuable insights to many other complex urban regions around the world. This book will provide a critical analysis of the Randstad and lessons for strategic planning in other metropolitan regions.

part I|25 pages


chapter 1|23 pages

Introducing the Randstad

A polycentric metropolis
ByVincent Nadin, Wil Zonneveld

part II|97 pages

The origins of the Randstad

chapter 2|21 pages

The making of the urban structure of the Randstad

ByNikki Brand

chapter 3|31 pages

Urban configurations in a dynamic delta landscape

ByHan Meyer

chapter 4|19 pages


A dynamic polder city in the Randstad
ByFransje Hooimeijer

chapter 5|24 pages

The global petroleumscape in the Dutch Randstad

Oil spaces and mindsets
ByCarola Hein

part III|100 pages

The dynamics of a complex metropolitan region

chapter 6|22 pages

Randstad Holland between functional entity and political desire

ByEvert Meijers, Martijn Burger, Frank van Oort

chapter 7|18 pages


Spatial planning, polycentrism and urban networks
ByJan Ritsema van Eck, Ries van der Wouden

chapter 8|21 pages

The Randstad and its mainports

Towards new heterogeneous discourses in Dutch planning
ByLuuk Boelens, Wouter Jacobs

chapter 9|19 pages

Impact of social housing on the social structure of the Randstad

ByMarja Elsinga, Harry van der Heijden, Rosa Donoso Gomez

chapter 10|18 pages

Interaction in the Delta

Culture, convention and knowledge clusters in the Randstad
ByMaurits de Hoog

part IV|106 pages

Governance, planning and design

chapter 11|28 pages


From a spatial planning concept to a place name
ByWil Zonneveld

chapter 12|26 pages

Governance and power in the metropolitan regions of the Randstad

ByMarjolein Spaans, Wil Zonneveld, Dominic Stead

chapter 13|16 pages

In control of urban sprawl?

Examining the effectiveness of national spatial planning in the Randstad, 1958–2018
ByRies van der Wouden

chapter 14|23 pages

Probing and planning the future of the Dutch Randstad

ByDavid Evers, Jan Vogelij

chapter 15|11 pages

The (im)possible design of the Randstad

Perspectives for the future
ByJoost Schrijnen

part V|15 pages

Conclusion and outlook

chapter 16|13 pages

Conclusion and outlook

ByWil Zonneveld, Vincent Nadin