Professor Paul Drewe, Photo from Edward Hulsbergen's collection.


 “Each piece of evidence on its own is not conclusive, but put it all together and it’s hard to avoid my conclusion.”

[Nicolas Reeves, The Economist, August 8th 2015, p.65]




Prof. dr. Paul G. Drewe (9th August 1940 – 6th August 2015)

1973–2005 Chair of Spatial Planning, Department of Urbanism, Faculty of Architecture and Technical Design, University of Technology Delft


“Paul Drewe […] for more than three decades explored existing and developed new fields of urban planning and design research. His concern was to further national and international co-operation, thereby encouraging, sustaining and setting the scenes for the educational and research programme of his Chair.” Thus Paul Drewe’s significance, summarised in Shifting Sense in Spatial Planning published in 2005 on the occasion of his retirement. [1] During those thirty-two years there were major changes in the organisation of the faculty, the education programme and research contents.


Paul Drewe always aimed at being in the forefront of the scientific debate about the relation between spatial and social (including economic) aspects; in general, but especially where in his view there was insufficient attention to what was actually happening: subjects unpopular in science and/or rather policy-sensitive, or at that time policy-undesirable. Without exaggeration, it can be stated that Paul Drewe as well as his research subjects often led the way five years ahead.


Some research projects were:

–       Social-spatial trends, like migration, urban segregation, unemployment, vulnerable groups and deprivation. From the beginning of the 1970’s he criticised the population policy of concentration-dispersal and the neglect to deal with the actual problems of urban areas and households.

–       Technological developments, especially the new technical opportunities in information and communication. He criticised the stance that ‘the development would take ages and therefore could be neglected on short term’. [1980’s, and after]

–       Urban networks, network urbanism (both spatial and functional) as the backbone of an urban vision and plan; and frame for architectural design [1990’s and after] [2]

–       Methodological topics, like mixed-scanning. [Also after his retirement]

–       Also was he involved in evaluation projects of the European Community.

After his retirement he kept on writing; articles as well as publications e.g. in co-operation with the University of Warsaw; look at his websites. [3]


Paul Drewe was always ‘on the road’; both literally and figuratively speaking. He felt a European, had a large network, spoke and wrote in several languages, was renowned internationally (honorary doctorate University Gent), and active and highly valued in international scientific organisations. He was friendly, far from presumptuous; but also not inclined to concessions motivated by policy or political interests. Scientific integrity also entailed that it was no shame if a researcher changed his or her view in case the (empirical) reality differed from earlier conclusions. Maybe something Friedrich Nietzsche formulated: “Convictions are more dangerous enemies of the truth than lies.” [4]


Paul made a lot of publications himself, nevertheless he considered co-operation the utmost importance. His approach was simple and effective. He defined a subject (spatial, social, economic), looked for co-operation – within or outside the Chair – with a researcher with expertise to develop it (contents, method, data collection and elaboration) and made a publication together. The collaborator could choose to continue or not. Paul Drewe always defined new subjects and partners. In this way all members of the Chair were involved with  the research programme, and the Chair became linked to many researchers in Paul’s academic network. PhD-researchers could attend his research programme, or develop their own interest, as long as this fitted in the research fields of the Chair. The diversity of PhD topics is noticeable. Paul was cautious, but not at all afraid to embrace new academic arenas. He loved positive results, but was also keen on unexpected outcomes, in research as well as in urban policy. However disappointing failures may be, they are an valuable source of knowledge. Alas, nowadays science is expected more and more to please, to be positive, optimistic.


From the beginning in 1973 Paul Drewe stressed basic issues like:

–       The importance of empirical control of theoretical ideas; among others of design visions and design proposals. Also the debate on evaluation; ex ante, andante and ex post; concerning design, but also concerning urban policies.

–       Pitfalls in drawing conclusions, like fallacies of aggregation and disaggregation.

–       Linking macro and micro data; micro-data as check on macro conclusions; macro-data to avoid becoming stuck in case descriptions. A grand vision can be attractive, but the check is in the details, especially in the lives of people who have to cope with the consequences of the ‘visionary’ decisions.

–       Systematic data reduction; opposed to the selection of data solely departing from a theoretical idea or policy solution.

–       The importance of ideology criticism, both in science as policy and politics.


I am often criticized that I ‘always agreed’ with Paul. Apart from the question whether this was the case, Paul often wás right. A wise, independent academic with forethought. He did not like open conflicts, but enjoyed well-argued counter pressure. Indeed the French way, preferably in a good restaurant. Though he was frequently abroad, he kept himself well informed about his Chair. Once, he had been absent for some time, and I had a lot to discuss with him: staff, finances, education, research. He suggested to have dinner first. With Paul there was never a lack of  conversation topics. When we had an espresso, he said he was ready for ‘my’ list. It appeared that we had talked about almost all items, formulated a proposal or made a decision. He understood what I came across in my role as associate professor. He considered many a formal meeting as loss of time, though he accepted occasional staff meetings as a means to be together, to better understand each other and keeping high team spirit.


He unwillingly accepted his retirement (emeritaat) in 2005. During the period I was temporarily in charge of the Chair, we continued working together and presented papers at several conferences. In 2006 in Montreal (about The Urban Divide), where Paul received a standing ovation, and the President informed the audience that our article would be published the same day in the e-version of Canadian Studies in Population. Medio 2007 in Vienna (about Social Innovation). November 2007 in Montreal (about Rethinking Solidarity). I am happy that our last common work, a book published in 2008, titled The Challenge of Social Innovation in Urban Revitalization, was selling well. Apart from ourselves and Juan-Luis Klein, as author-editors, there are 21 contributors. To achieve this Paul Drewe’s large network was indispensable. [5]


Paul Drewe always worked hard and long. He enjoyed his academic work very much, but regretted the slow internationalisation of the university. He did not spare himself, and kept on working and writing. Nonetheless, no matter how many ideas we have, in the end everyone becomes old and weak. For those who wonder whether an academic life like Paul’s is worth the pains, keep this solace in mind: a new development is often denied at first, or one shrugs one’s shoulders. However, once this development continues, the deniers of the past adjust and express the opinion that there is hardly anything new, that it has ‘always’ been like this. This happened more than once to Professor Paul Drewe: anyhow with ICT and with Network Urbanism. At the same time he took a realistic attitude. He made sure, that the knowledge he and his collaborators introduced in the Faculty was published, mostly in book form. See e.g. the publications in the series Design/Science/Planning of the publisher Techne Press. [6] These publications stay available for present and future researchers, and for policy makers. After all, homo sapiens is a flexible species, pre- and posthumously. Yet it is a pity that after 2005 Drewe and Delft, from both sides, gradually got out of touch.


It is true, Paul Drewe as a person no longer lives. But as long as we read, study and quote his work, he lives on, as the pharaonic Egyptians showed long ago for several thousands of years.

I wish Arna Drewe, Julien Drewe and family many good memories. I feel privileged that I have enjoyed Paul Drewe’s brilliant mind for 35 years.


Paul Drewe: scientist, source of inspiration, mentor, critic, and most of all: incorruptible person and friend.


Edward Hulsbergen, 14th of August 2015




[1] Hulsbergen, E., I. Klaasen & I.Kriens (eds), 2005, Shifting Sense, Looking back to the Future in Spatial Planning, Techne Press, Amsterdam, Series Design/Science/Planning Vol.5, p.9.

[2] L’urbanisme des réseaux. See : Dupuy, G., Urban Networks – Network Urbanism, Series Design/Science/Planning, Vol.7, Techne Press, Amsterdam.


[4] Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All To Human, 483.

[5] Drewe, P. & E. Hulsbergen, 2006, The ‘Urban Divide’ – What Role for Demography?, Canadian Studies in Population, Vol. 33.1, pp.119-136.

Drewe, P. & E.D. Hulsbergen, 2007, Social Innovation in Urban Revitalization – it might be a new experience; in: Schrenk, M., V.V. Popovich & J. Benedikt (eds),  REAL CORP 007 Proceedings / Tagungsband Vienna, 20-23 May  2007, pp.737-744.

Drewe, P., J-L. Klein & E.D. Hulsbergen, 2007, Rethinking Solidarity – The Challenge of Social Innovation in Urban Revitalization, Paper presented in second International CRISES Conference, Social Innovation and its Dissemination: from Initiative to Institutionalization, 8-9 November 2007, Montréal, Canada.

Drewe, P., J-L. Klein & E.D. Hulsbergen (eds), 2008, The Challenge of Social Innovation in Urban Revitalization, Series Design/Science/Planning, Vol.6, Techne Press, Amsterdam.

[6] Ina Klaasen was the energetic editor of the series Design/Science/Planning; she deceased 1st August 2015.
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