Research Projects


I-SURF developed a set of design tools that can help designers, planners, decision-makers and other stakeholders devise spatial interventions that integrate complex environmental and ecological goals into high-quality and sustainable design of public spaces along urban riverfronts.


Poster of the I-SURF workshop


The location of the I-SURF workshop at AMS Institute


The I-SURF instruments


I-SURF workshop handouts

Urban open space has a huge impact on human health, well-being and urban ecosystems. One type of open space where the environmental and ecological challenges of cities manifest the most is the urban riverfront, often characterised by fragmented land use, lack of accessibility, heavy riverside vehicular traffic, and extreme degradation of river hydrology and ecology. More often than not, the current spatial design of the riverfront hinders rather than supports the provision of ecosystem services and, in consequence, its potential to improve the health and well-being of urban inhabitants is diminished. Hence, the urban andlandscape design of riverside open spaces is crucial.

The I-SURF (Instruments for Sustainable Urban Riverfronts) project took up this challenge by developing a set of design instruments that can aid designers, planners, decision-makers and other stakeholders in devising spatial interventions that integrate complex environmental and ecological goals in high quality and sustainable riverfront public space design. The four I-SURF instruments, namely the Connector, the Sponge, the Integrator and the Scaler, focusing on connectivity, spatial capacity, integration and multi-scalarity, respectively (Figure 1), provide a grounded and systematic approach to the analysis andtransformation of riverside urban spaces. Moreover, the visual communication of the instrument set is meant to facilitate collaboration between stakeholders involved in riverfront transformations.

As a result of the design-driven research process of the I-SURF project, consisting of an international design workshop in Amsterdam and an expert survey, the project concluded with an updated instrument set that is more user-friendly, accessible and reliable in producing social-ecologically integrated spatial design solutions. The practical challenges encountered in the implementation of the instruments have led, on the one hand, to better design solutions and, on the other hand, to a better understanding of misalignments between current densification-driven development targets and environmental targets promoting open space quantity and quality. Instruments such as the ones developed in the I-SURF project can mitigate such misalignments by facilitating the negotiation between density- and open-space-driven development targets. Policy- and decision-makersconcerned with urban spatial development and urban water management can make use of the I-SURF instrument set to guide, gauge or implement sustainable riverfront transformations and to better engage stakeholders in the process.

Partners: AMS Insitute, City of Amsterdam

Duration of the project: 2019-2021

Funding programme: NWO, VerDuS SURF Pop-Up 2018

Funding amount: €50.000

Project Lead: Arjan van Timmeren

Principal Investigator TU Delft: Claudiu Forgaci