In this part of the Urban Nebula project, different phases in the spatio-economic transformation of the Schiphol region - from polder, via suburban area into nebula city - are studied. The bases are the spasmodic shifts in spatio-economic structures such as clustering, sprawl, splintering, changing land ownership and migration. The institutional environment shapes the field in which various collective arrangements are established and then develop along a specific path, ultimately producing the spatio-economic morphology of the city and region.

The fierce growth of the airport gave a decisive impetus to the metamorphosis of the Schiphol region from an agrarian area into a new urban centre (Airport City). The most important explanations for this metamorphosis can be found in the modernising processes, the growing economic significance of aviation for the national economy, the prosperity of the Schiphol region, and its spatial impact on the metropolitan area of Amsterdam and the Randstad.

On the one hand, the research offers a synthesis of various institutional approaches and defines the concept of ‘collective arrangement’ in the spatial and economic order of the region. In the economic, social and political sciences, several theories have been presented about the role, importance and meaning of (changing) formal and informal institutional arrangements in connection with spatial planning, the organisation of economic activities and the structural change of cities and regions. This synthesis results in a consistent theoretical framework that aims to map the historical phases of the spatio-economic transformation of the Schiphol region.

On the other hand, a connection is made between influential elements of these institutional approaches, namely the theory of agglomeration economies, network theory and other urban and regional economic theories. These theories have dominated the accounts of the spatio-economic metamorphosis of the Schiphol region hitherto. The difference between the institutional factors and the environmental factors is, however, decisive: in this research shifts in both the economic and the spatial structure are considered in a path through time with standardised measuring moments. Integrating a historical perspective facilitates the identification of these two types of shifts and enables the above-mentioned metamorphosis to be explained.

The empirical evidence of the changes in the spatio-economic structure of the Schiphol region consists of quantitative/statistical analyses, within which historical intervals are constructed, as collected from municipal, regional and provincial sources.

Abdel El Makhloufi - Website

The impact of infrastructural networks on nebula city (1965 – present), is a study of the changes in the character and shape of infrastructural networks. One of the motors of the metamorphosis of the compact city in an urban nebula is the growth of the infrastructure for transport and communication, in which the hubs of the network count. Studying these networks is essential for the understanding of the nebula city as a process of flows, an assembly of networks that extend over ever-larger distances.

The construction of infrastructural networks fits in a general, international pattern, which governs urban and later regional dynamics. The infrastructure of regions increasingly serves as a vehicle of a globalised flow of humans (in various capacities: workers, migrants, refugees, tourists), energy, communication messages etc. Multinationals choose their locations with an eye on the highway network, connections with worldwide telecommunication and superior systems energy provision, water supply or surveillance.

Infrastructural networks are crucial for the efficiency of collective arrangements of nebula city, because they facilitate various forms of economical, social, geographic and cultural exchange, articulate a link between production and consumption and constitute a substantial part of the physical and economical tissue of cities and city regions.


Marieke Berkers is an architectural historian and her research interests include twentieth century urban planning and architecture.

Marieke Berkers - Website

Twentieth century town planning has often been labelled international town planning. Ideas, concepts, plans and experiences circulated, were imitated and were innovated upon. Planning historians use concepts such as artistic inspiration and Schumpeter’s innovation theory to explain the international traffic of planning theory and experience. However, they pay hardly any attention to the international networks that are necessary to disseminate town planning thought.

The existence of an extensive international network and planning society (or Urban International) for the dissemination of ideas was characteristic of twentieth century planning. In my opinion, this international society was the primary factor responsible for the production of international town planning thought. This international discourse was not just defined by inspirational and innovative contributions, but was also heavily influenced by the way the Urban International functioned.

The Urban International is aptly analysed in recent literature by historians with an interest in local governance, such as Saunier. Despite the fact that we know a lot about the Urban International today, relatively little is known of its individual constituents. Among these the International Federation for Housing and Town planning (IFHTP), a pivotal player in the Urban International, has never been properly studied.

My thesis focuses on the IFHTP. Firstly, I want to reconstruct the history of this largely forgotten organisation. Secondly, I want to use the Federation as a case study to analyse how the Urban International operated on the micro level of the single network organisation. Finally, presupposing that the Urban International was not a neutral agent, I want to study how its nature effected and affected the international town planning discourse.

The study of the IFHTP is a fascinating subject in itself, but it is also very helpful for the study of Urban Nebula. The worldwide internationalisation of the Urban International  after World War II, including its network, planning discourse and planning concepts, has a parallel in the globalisation of air traffic and the transformation of the airfield.

Michel Geertse

In 1919 the Netherlands' largest airport, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, consisted of a few simple buildings and a grassy field used for take off and landing, with the occasional dodging of cows. Today it presents itself as an ‘airport city’. Schiphol has not just changed physically, but has also seen a shift in the meanings people attach to its current state and future.
For instance, in the beginning the airport was associated with glamour, as flying was mostly the privilege of the rich and/or famous. At the same time, flying was not as safe a mode of transport as it is now, and so pilots were idolised as heroes. This reflected back on the airport as a starting point for adventure and glamour. The idea of glamour faded in the course of the late sixties and seventies, when flying became affordable for the masses.
The changed mentality towards Schiphol can be traced in the way it has been represented in books, news articles, advertisements, comics, photos, stories, etc. In short, it is found in Schiphol’s imagery. Iris Burgers' PhD project Larger than life: the multidimensional manifestations of Schiphol Airport in image and architecture (1920 – 2006) studies the airport’s visual representation in relation to the actual development of Schiphol. Her research is part of the Urban Nebula research group and is funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) within the Urbanisation and City Culture programme.

Iris Burgers is an architectural historian and her research interests include nineteenth and twentieth century urban planning and architecture, mobility, urban imagery, graphic design and photography.

Iris Burgers - Website

Heidi de Mare’s research on Visual Formations is focused on analysing patterns in the current overload of images in a systematic way, in terms of sedimentation, transformation, shift and migration. She initiated her methodology of historical formalism in her dissertation (cum laude, 2003; a completely revised edition, Huiselijke Taferelen. De veranderende rol van het beeld in de Gouden Eeuw, will be published in September 2011), a comparative study on images and art concepts in Dutch painting, architecture and literature in the early modern European context of natural philosophy. It also offers a consistent, scientific foundation for studying a range of (audio)visual artefacts that today articulate our mental horizon – fiction and documentary film, television-serials, press photographs, cartoons, (web)ads, modern art, et cetera.

Heidi de Mare has been educated in art and architectural historory and film studies (RU Nijmegen, 1983) and she has been attached to the several Faculties of Art (RU Nijmegen, 1985-1988, VU Amsterdam 2000-2011, Amsterdam University College 2009) and to the Faculty of Architecture, Technical University Delft (1984-2001). Since 2007 she has been unfolding her educational program Trained Eye primarily within contexts of our modern life in which existential aspects are at stake. Externally financed projects include research on the public imagination regarding health and illness (Medical Humanities, VUmc, 2007-2009), violence and public security (Police Department Amsterdam-Amstelland, 2007-2009) and leadership, power and imagination (Liberal Arts Program, University of Tilburg, 2008-2009).

Heidi de Mare was, alongside Koos Bosma and Karel Davids, one of the co-applicants of the  NWO-programme Urban Nebula: Metamorphosis of the Schiphol region in the twentieth century (2006-2011, CLUE). She is co-promoter and supervisor of the PhD-project ‘Urban Mythology. Impact of visual representations on collective arrangements of the Schiphol region (c. 1919 – 2000)’ carried out by Iris Burgers MA.

She was co-promotor of dr. Connie Veugen (Computer Games as a Narrative Medium, 2011), and is supervisor, alongside Ben Peperkampp and Arko Oderwald of Wouter Schrover MA (The Art of Dying The Representattion of Euthenasia and Assisted Suicide in Literature and Film, 2010-2014). She has been a member of VISOR since 2007, with her research on religion and the (moving) image and since Juli 1st 2011 2011 she is an associate researcher. Since 2009 she is director of the IVMV-Foundation (Stichting IVMV), the Dutch Institute for Public Imagination initiated in 2006 together with her husband Gabriël van den Brink. They have two sons (1986 and 1994).

Email adress: Heidi de Mare - Website - LinkedIn

Prof. Koos Bosma, Prof. Karel Davids and Dr. Heidi de Mare, are co-applicants of the accepted NWO-programme Urban Nebula: Metamorphosis of the Schiphol region in the twentieth century. Prof. Bosma is also project supervisor.

VU University Amsterdam, Chair History of Architecture and Heritage Studies

The issues that have focused his interest over the years include urban planning and the reconstruction of European cities after World War II, the planning and design of the Dutch polders, heritage topics and infrastructural planning, such as the civil engineering works of the Ministry of Water Management, the Channel Tunnel, the High Speed Trains programmes in Europe and the large European airfields.

Bosma has published two articles on airport architecture in English: ‘European Airports, 1945-1995: Typology, Psychology and Infrastructure,’ in J. Zukowsky (ed.), Building for Air Travel. Architecture and Design for Commercial Aviation, Munich/New York, 1996, 51-65, and ‘In search of the perfect airport’, in: A. von Vegesack and J. Eisenbrand (eds.), Airworld. Design and architecture for air travel, Weil am Rhein 2004, 36-81. In 2007 together with three colleagues he edited the book Bouwen in Nederland 600-2000.

Professor Koos Bosma

Karel Davids is Professor of Economic and Social History in the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Economics at the VU University Amsterdam. His research interests concern the history of technology, global history, urban history and the development of the knowledge economy and knowledge infrastructure between c.1500 and the present. His recent publications include: The rise and decline of Dutch technological leadership. Technology, economy and culture in the Netherlands, 1350-1800 (Leiden 2008), (ed. with Patrick Pasture and Greta Devos); Changing liaisons. The dynamics of social partnership in West European democracies (Brussels 2008) and (ed. with Koos Bosma), Werken aan een open Amsterdam (special issue Holland, 2000) .

Karel Davids