The holistic approach to city planning with the Tygron Platform

In 2021 the Netherlands will face a major change in environmental laws. The approaching implementation of the Omgevingswet (Environment and Planning act) is expected to bring many improvements for citizens, but also requires the reorganization of  work processes of municipalities and a shift in their approach to city planning. In  order to find out what the future of city planning will look like, and in order to see if tools like the Tygron Platform can be important in the process, Tygron reached out to Hans Wisse, a former project secretary of the implementation of the Omgevingswet in The Hague Municipality and an advisor at Ludanta. In his work, he has considerable experience in working with the Tygron Platform as well as in leading Serious Gaming sessions with the use of the Tygron software.

Spatial planning

In the light of the Omgevingswet, according to Wisse, there needs to be a shift in approach to city planning. Currently, the discussions about urban problems and urban solutions are conducted with limited spatial awareness and with the use of two-dimensional plans. This way, the problems are tackled with little attention to the fact that every problem exists in relation to multiple factors and that every solution to this problem will have an effect not only on the direct issue but also on the environment in which it exists. Policymakers and city planners, according to Wisse, need to start planning three-dimensionally. They need to see the space, which is the subject to their discussion as well as they need to understand the other factors which are tied to the problem that they are trying to tackle. Wisse compares the urban environment to a living organism where one problem treated by a specialist might result in major consequences for other vital organs in the body. Therefore, city planners need to treat the urban problems holistically, paying attention not only to the immediate issue but also to the effect that the solution will have on other parts of the urban ecosystem. 

Working integrally

In order for this vision to become reality, it is crucial that policymaker and planners specialized in different domains work integrally. Currently, policymakers are required to make laws and regulations for each domain individually. The cooperation between the different departments is limited yet, in light of the objectives of the new Environmental Act, in order for the city planning to be effective different specialists need to work together.

As Wisse says, such a way of working is a result of the well-established work manner within  municipalities. Switching to a more horizontal, collaborative city planning is a big step that the municipalities are slowly making. In order to make the transition process easier, Hans Wisse says that he searched for a digital medium that would help bring different stakeholders together and be a starting point to productive discussions. The tool that he saw potential in was the Tygron Platform.

Kijkduin 2- a serious game developed by Ludanta based on the Tygron Platform

With the help of Ludanta, Wisse now uses the Tygron software and serious gaming to introduce the municipality workers to a new way of planning the cities. According to him, such a way of deployment of the software is the most approachable way of introducing the new tool. Among the serious games used by Wisse to tackle city-planning problems are the Kijkduin 1 and 2 developed by Ludanta. In the interactive game sessions, different stakeholders are gathered together to debate and to find an optimal solution to a problem. In order to achieve their goals, the game requires the participants to make compromises. The team goal is more important than the goals of the individual stakeholders and in order to reach it, the participants need to negotiate and discuss the issue together. As Wisse says, the Tygron Platform provides the participants with a visual presentation of the problem area and the situation. That way, the area, and the issue discussed become transparent and the stakeholders are provided with a sense of reality. The proposed solution and the discussions held at the table are no longer two dimensional and theoretical. Thanks to the Platform, they come to life and are visualized to the participants. The problems are shown to be a part of a bigger system. It is made clear that they are a part of a web of different, co-existing aspects of the city and therefore, the participants see how important it is that the city-plans need to be made with the joined effort. The Platform provides a safe space for creative thinking, testing, and experimenting with possible solutions without the threat of making mistakes.

Civic participation

Currently, the Kijkduin application is used for gaming sessions for civil servants as well as the citizens. Both groups are however participating separately. According to Wisse, the next step is to use the Tygron Platform to hold discussions at one table with both, citizens and the city planners. Municipalities cannot succeed in their work without the input of the citizens. The citizens are the experts that the municipality needs, says Wisse. They live in the area day to day, they are the ones who know everything about the needs and the problems of their city. It is therefore crucial that these two groups work together more closely, and the cooperation between them can be made easier and more effective if supported by tools such as the Tygron Platform.