Embassy of Circularity

The urgency is becoming increasingly clear: If we don’t transition to a circular economy, we will run out of raw materials. But in many cases, the issue of how to implement the transition remains an open question. As part of the DDW, the Embassy of Circularity will use an exhibition and a programme of lectures to explore how we might produce no fewer than 2020 entirely circular apartment buildings by the year 2020. The apartment building symbolises the type of residence in which large swathes of the population grew up. In light of urban concentration objectives, this is also the type of building that is going to be constructed in the coming years.
Circular living for everyone

‘Designers are working on all fronts to make processes circular and almost all the results they’re booking are extremely encouraging,’ says curator of the Embassy of Circularity Marieke Rietbergen of Design Innovation Group. ‘At the Embassy we will explore with our partners ABN AMRO, DEMEEUW, CIRCO, New Horizon and Urban Mining Collective how we might join forces to take subsequent steps. Our starting point will be apartment buildings. Numerous solutions have been conceived and developed to make office environments circular, but many of these solutions have remained out of reach for private households. The exhibition will explore what would be necessary to create pleasantly liveable, affordable and entirely circular private residences. In other words: How can we make our normal, everyday living environment circular?’

Scarce raw materials

Raw materials are a scarce resource in today’s world. Although we’re aware of this, we still keep on using new raw materials as if the supply is infinite. In reality we’re literally exhausting the world’s resources while simultaneously creating enormous quantities of waste. That has to change. We need to transition to a new economic order in which we use as few raw materials as possible for as long as possible.

This means our entire environment will change, both visibly and invisibly. In a linear world, we design, produce, use and then discard resources, raw materials and products after we’ve used them. In a circular society, we use products far more efficiently and responsibly: Products, raw materials and resources are used over and over again.

This changes the design, production and (re)use of products but also affects processes. It will result in new partnerships, different financial structures and amended legislation. The transition to a circular economy literally requires an entire world to be redesigned and it’s going to require a lot of design power.

In other words, at this exhibition, we will explore what it will take to have people living in 2020 circular apartment buildings by the year 2020. We will show what has already been conceived and designed in the field and what kind of challenges designers have encountered. Marieke Rietbergen, Curator Embassy of Circularity

Catalyst of the transition

The Embassy of Circularity aims to be a catalyst for designers who can make the difference in the transition to a circular economy. That’s why the exhibition entitled ‘The Road to 2020 Circular Apartment Buildings’ is set up as a research exhibition. Rietbergen: ‘In other words, at this exhibition we will explore what it will take to have people living in 2020 circular apartment buildings by the year 2020. We will show what has already been conceived and designed in the field and what kind of challenges designers have encountered. This will touch on numerous concrete and conceptual questions, and we expect that designers will be able to use their creative thinking skills to play a significant part in solving many social issues. For instance, companies are looking for ways to recycle waste materials which they want to repurpose impactfully. Others want to know what kind of revenue model is achievable in a circular economy and some want to develop circular products and services.’

These are exactly the type of questions that designers can help to address, according to Rietbergen. ‘Designers are in the vanguard of innovation and change and are perfectly positioned to make our world circular. We will have to completely reorganise society. The central question being: How? Designers have a way of thinking and possess the kinds of skills suited to finding answers to this question. They can envisage what doesn’t exist yet, they put human beings front and centre, they use visualisation and co-creation and stimulate the imagination through speculative designs.’

One big design challenge

The transition to a circular society is one big design challenge in which a wide variety of designers can participate. From architects to speculative designers and from product designers to behaviour designers. We need all sorts of designers and disciplines in order to forge a path towards a circular society. Many are already experimenting or designing circular products and services. At the same time, new challenges are arising that are calling for solutions.

‘At the exhibition and in the ABN AMRO Circl-E talks we’re programming, we will show what designers, organisations and enterprises are already capable of,’ says Rietbergen. ‘The exhibition is not only about the construction but also about the design, use and impact of circular residences. So, it’s about technology, but also about behaviour, culture and people’s experience. What we want to explore is what a truly appealing circular apartment building could look like. There are already numerous products on the market and designers also have multiple prototypes for future circular services in their studios. At the same time, many questions still need to be addressed and it is still going to take a lot of innovation to achieve a genuinely circular apartment building.

‘We will display various types of materials and products, but also examples of circular construction and technology, such as the machine produced by Freement, which extracts cement from recycled concrete. But we will also examine, for example, what it means to share assets, how that influences our lives and what potential revenue models might be. All these examples are intended to stimulate visitors’ imaginations and to generate new ideas. So that, hopefully, we actually will be able to realise 2020 circular apartment buildings by 2020.’

Did you also check our other Design Embassies?

Check Design Embassies