1.1. Circular Economy in Theory and Practice
1.2. Circularity and its Spatial Articulation Remain Confusing
1.3. Circularity Is Multi-Scalar, -Dimensional and Place-Specific
1.4. Towards a Circularity Drivers Framework for Spatial Practice
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Comparative Case Study Research
- Content: The object of study is a realized or unrealized spatial circularity representation.
- Scale: Referring to Sandoval et al.’s definition (see Section 1.1), the object of study is a macro scale project (a site in relation to its larger context, a neighborhood, a city or a region).
- Circularity: The project either literally states circularity or implicitly alludes to circularity through graphical closed resource loops representations.
- The project was initiated in the last ten years.
2.2. Analytical Framework for Urban Metabolism Spatial Practices by Philippe Vandenbroeck
3.1. Four Circular City Representations
3.1.3. Masdar City
3.1.4. Living Breakwaters
4. Discussion: Comparing Four Circularity Representations
4.1. Interpreting Circularity from Different Sustainability Framings
4.1.1. Objectivist versus Constructivist
- Adopting techno-centric views, emphasizing measures and flows in concepts such as ‘zero waste’, ‘carbon neutrality’, or ‘circular economy’.
- Both cities are ‘new’, meaning they do not take into account any existing contextual parameters.
- This makes them generic and reproducible models for circularity.
- Viewing circular economy from the production and consumption system perspective, they privilege technological and economic dimensions and consider social and environmental dimensions as a result of those.
- They represent circularity coherences in a certain moment, an optimal convergence of technology and economics in Reburg’s case, and the application of an ideal ‘model’ in Masdar City’s case. Proposing utopic visions of circularity at a fixed moment in time, they avoid the question of how existing urban fabrics can transition to circularity and become more resilient.
- The images focus on circularity as a product or result that is ‘finished’ or closed. As synchronic imaginaries, they ignore cities’ temporal dimension, the city as process.
- Both representations articulate emancipatory political positions, acting from within the site to achieve radical change. In a way acting from within the site means setting up a process that is starting from (the critique of) the existing, a dialectic between the existing and needed. R-urban hereby explicitly emphasizes the need to act against reigning capitalist sociotechnical regimes in any European city and community, drastically changing the way that resource flows are governed. Living Breakwaters, on the other hand, reimagines a concrete site and situation, Staten Island’s post-disaster coastal area.
- Both of the projects envision dramatic societal change in the way resource flows, communities, and spaces are interacting. Even though both AAA and Scapestudio label themselves as ‘activist’ spatial practices, R-urban expresses a more radical societal critique than Living Breakwaters, and explicitly constructs alternatives for reigning regimes initiating a post-growth society from the margin. Living Breakwaters, on the other hand, works with transformative powers within existing institutions in a more consensus-driven and pragmatic practice. It tries to shift spatial practices and intergovernmental collaborations from within, explicitly engaging as many actors and stakeholders as possible to achieve resilience, making use of available situational and material resources that it can capture. The continuous reception and appropriation of Living Breakwaters on both community as well as local, state, and federal level since 2013, seem to indicate successful and supported long-term project engagements.
- Both of the projects privilege social, ecological, and cultural dimensions, and consider technology and economy as secondary driving forces.
- The images are dialectic, building new syntheses through images as a method of intellectual investigation supporting dialogue.
4.1.2. Proximity versus Connectivity
4.1.3. Resource Efficiency
4.1.4. Spatial Context Characteristics and Sustainability Transitions Drivers
4.2. Building up a Circularity Drivers Framework for Spatial Practice
4.2.1. Four Circularity Agendas
- A technocratic agenda optimizing flows: Masdar City as industrial-ecological pool table metabolisms, prioritizing resource efficiency, clean technology in sustainable infrastructures conceived from the top down.
- A business-driven agenda innovating with flows: Reburg as ‘smart city’ web metabolisms that are founded on circular economy business models and digital networks.
- A holistic agenda contextualizing flows: Living Breakwaters as bioregional mosaic metabolisms offering a cultural, multi-scalar, and place-specific circularity approach as restoring ecological cycles.
- An activist agenda democratizing flows: R-urban as narrative metabolisms prioritizing bottom-up community stewardship over resource flows supporting a civic economy in a larger resilience strategy.
4.2.2. Circularity Drivers Framework for Spatial Practice
- is systemic: it aims to relate micro, meso and macro scales within an ideal situation of regenerating ecosystems;
- envisions how people relate to the ecosystems they inhabit as part of circularity; and,
- combines both technocratic and emancipatory approaches , drawing both from management and politics.
5.1. Multi-Dimensional Spatial Circularity Requires Combinations of Different Sustainability Framings
5.2. Spatial Circularity Representations are Implicitly or Explicitly Political
5.3. The Leading Disciplinary Field and Commissioner Determine which Circularity Drivers are Addressed
5.4. Urban Landscape Design can Approach Circularity in an Inclusive, Multi-Dimensional, Place-Specific and Multi-Scalar Way
5.5. Urban Landscape Design Can Act as a Pivot in Transdisciplinary Spatial Circularity Design Research
5.6. An Agenda for Spatial Circularity Assignments
- Forward looking urban landscape design research, in particular places in circular economy transition.
- Open questions and policy frameworks allowing holistic approaches not defending one client in particular, but aiming for resource efficiency integrating material, social, economic and environmental dimensions across political agendas.
- Multi-actor and multilevel support on community, local and higher government levels
- Multidisciplinary design teams integrating industrial ecology, scenario planning, political ecology, and other relevant expertise.
Conflicts of Interest
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|Reburg||R-Urban||Masdar City||Living Breakwaters|
|Project question||Imaginary of Circular Flanders in 2036||Bottom-up urban resilience strategy||First zero waste, zero carbon, fossil fuel free city||Strategic spatial vision to rebuild Staten Island shore|
|Location||Somewhere in Flanders||Anywhere, with pilot project in Colombes, Paris||The desert 17 km outside Abu Dhabi||Staten Island shore, New York City|
|Circularity interpretation||Urban solutions for circular economies||Production of commons||Net zero environmental impact||Integrating risk reduction, ecology and culture|
|Main agenda||Circular Economy||Political Change||Resource efficiency||Site and context specific resilience|
|Goal||Provoke out-of-the-box thinking||Inspire/Activate to change the reigning capitalist sociotechnical regime||Demonstrate a global example of circular cities||Guide the creation of resilient shore communities and landscapes|
|Commissioner||Plan C||Community-initiated (by AAA in the case of Colombes)||Abu Dhabi Renewable Energy Company (Masdar)||President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force|
|Policy context||Circular Economy Transition||Activism||Sustainability transition||Post-disaster recovery and resilience|
|Executer||Pantopicon 2015||Atelier d’Architecture Autogérée (AAA) since 2008||(phase one) Foster +Partners et al. 2007–2014||Scapestudio et al. since 2013|
|Main Disciplinary field||Scenario planning||Political Ecology and Architecture||Industrial Ecology||Urban Landscape Design|
|Site-visits and semi-structured interviews||Oct 2016 participant in Reburg workshop ‘community meeting 2037’||Feb 2015, site visits Recyclab and Agrocité, lecture by and discussion with project visionary and architect||Oct 2015, site visit and guided tour as part of Abu Dhabi Ecocity World Summit 2015||2013, urban designer at Scapestudio during the project’s design phase. Not personally involved in the project|
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