Category Archives: learning and doing

Exercise on logics of enquiry (TU Delft version)

This is an exercise where we remind students what logics of enquiry are (see posts below) and invite the to locate Urbanism as a discipline in a triangle representing hypothetical logics of enquiry. They then need to locate Urbanism as it is taught at TU Delft. Finally, they need to locate themselves (to which logic enquiry they identify the most). Subsequently, they need to imagine relevant questions and methods connected to their course at TU Delft and to different logics of enquiry.


Miss Lovely Legs: Understanding Different Logics of Enquiry, based on exercise by W. Stainton-Rogers

What logic of enquiry are you closer to?

Urbanism at TU Delft integrates different logics of enquityUrbanism at TU Delft integrates different logis of enquiry that stem from three different fields of human knowledge: the human sciences, the physical sciences and design. In order to understand what logics of enquiry are, see our post entitled “Miss Lovely Legs“.

Each logic of enquiry entails a different way to conceive knowledge and the object to be known. Therefore, each logic of enquiry  entails different questions and different methods to answer those questions.

For example, take  the canals of Delft.

Having the physical sciences guiding one’s logic of enquiry, one’s question could be: How do canals contribute to water management in the Netherlands? How to keep the canals from overflowing? How to pump water from a lower level to the next? In short, how do canals work?

But if one has the social sciences as the point of departure, one may ask: How do the canals of Delft influence human behaviour? Why do people like to live near water? What is the history of canal building in the Netherlands and how has it influenced urbanisation?

If the logic of enquiry is based on design, then the questions could be: How to use water to design a permeable neighbourhood? How to design a neighbourhood where water is used as  means of transportation?  How to design ecologically sustainable and flood resilient neighbourhoods?

In this example, it is easy to imagine that one needs to combine several logics of enquiry in order to arrive at a good design or plan. In a design and planning project that deals with complex urban problems, you need to articulate different logics of enquiry to answer different problems arising simultaneously. 

Design is a propositional activity. By propositional we mean that when you design, you are proposing something new. Most likely, you are proposing a direction to be taken by designing a new shape, a new process or an intervention. In the case of Urbanism, this is most likely a spatial intervention, but it could also be an intervention in the form of a new regulation or plan that will have a spatial outcome. In short, designing is all about proposing something that did not exist before.

The word DESIGN comes from the Latin “designare”: to point out, to mark out, to bring something to one’s attention. Through middle-French, it evolved into “desseign” or to “mark something out” and later “to give something a shape”.

But there is another interesting word for us: PROJECT. Project comes from the Latin  proiectum “something thrown forth,” ” from pro- “forward” (see pro-) + combining form of iacere (past participle iactus) “to throw” (jet). In other words: to throw forward.  Slowly, it acquired the meaning of “scheme, proposal, mental plan”, or “an idea being thrown into the future”.

Finally, the word PLAN comes from Latin “planus”, meaning literally a “flat surface”, in the sense of drawing something on a flat surface (which gives you a “plan”). This word has also evolved into the middle-French “plante” and the Italian “pianta”, meaning the drawn plan of a building, for example.

These words help us understand the role of design and the interrelations of planning and designing in Urbanism.

*Several sources were used here, but the on-line etymological dictionary at gives you a good idea of what we are talking about.

Mind Mapping Urbanism 2013

The objective of this exercise is to explore and unfold core concepts for Urbanism. For the purpose of this exercise, we consider FIVE crucial aspects of the discipline: KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS, TOOLS, QUALITIES and VALUES.  We have decided to do this because of the excessive emphasis on tools and  skills given in Urbanism studies. These are eminently practical dimensions of Urbanism. It is crucial to teach relevant skills and tools. However, we consider that KNOWLEDGE  is the foundation on which all is built (no pun intended). Without knowledge (practical and theoretical), skills and tools are not able to fulfil their tasks fully.

Furthermore, we believe that a discussion on VALUES (of the profession and of the Urbanist him or herself) and QUALITIES (of the Urbanist) are essential elements for professionals to operate in the world. TU Delft also emphasizes the ETHICAL dimensions of the discipline, which we try to explore through the discussion of values, qualities and knowledge.

MIND MAPS are a visual/graphic way of brainstorming, unfolding concepts and expanding ideas. We think this is an ideal technique to tackle the challenge of visual and textual communication, which is central to urbanism.

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