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 Introduction 1. Introducing the Randstad: a polycentric metropolis PART II The origins of the Randstad 2. The making of the urban structure of the Randstad 3. Urban conf igurations in a dynamic delta landscape 4. Rotterdam: a dynamic polder city in the Randstad 5. The global petroleumscape in the Dutch Randstad: oilspaces and mindsets PART III The dynamics of a complex metropolitan region 6. Randstad Holland between functional entity and political desire 7. Randstad: spatial planning, polycentrism and urban networks 8. The Randstad and its mainports: towards new heterogeneous discourses in Dutch planning 9. Impact of social housing on the social structure of the Randstad 10. Interaction in the Delta: culture, convention and knowledge clusters in the Randstad PART IV Governance, planning and design 11. Randstad: from a spatial planning concept to a place name 12. Governance and power in the metropolitan regions of the Randstad 13. In control of urban sprawl? Examining the effectiveness of national spatial planning in the Randstad, 1958–2018 14. Probing and planning the future of the Dutch Randstad 15. The (im)possible design of the Randstad: perspectives for the future PART V Conclusion and outlook 16. Conclusion and outlook