Circular City

In the Circular City research project we will be exploring the roles of contemporary Dutch architects regarding the circular economy in the built environment. We will also be studying the roles of European architects during the 1960 and ‘70s who reused materials and designed solar houses which were self-reliant in terms of energy and food, as a reference to inform the contemporary debate. 

Schoonship. © Space & Matter

One of the reasons why the sustainable projects of the 1970s were not a success is because the architects underestimated the three limitations related to health, social condition and maintenance and renewal. This ultimately contributed to such projects being abandoned in the 1980s. Unlike their predecessors, contemporary Dutch architects do tend to take account of these limitations. In this research project we aim to answer the following questions:

  • In what ways do today’s architects regard the limitations of sustainable interventions?
  • What roles should Dutch architects assume for their 'circular' projects to be successfully implemented?
  • To what extent are these three limitations considered in the latest standards - such as BREEAM for circular buildings, or the Ellen McArthur Framework Resolve for buildings - with regard to the circular economy for the built environment?

For this we will be consulting architectural archives and conducting a literature review, and interviews with architects, related to the circular economy and sustainable architecture from the 1970s.

Autonomous community based on Vale’s Autonomous house design. © Architectural Design Magazine, 1976

The outcomes will be an online open-access publication and a symposium/exhibition to disseminate the results of the investigation into the role of the architect with regard to the circular economy in the Netherlands, and to form a new collaboration between academics, practitioners and stakeholders for future actions. 


Funder NWO
Programme: Creative Industry - Knowledge Innovation Mapping (KIEM).


Lead partner

Duration: January 2020 - December 2020

TU Delft researchers:                  

Dr. Roberto Cavallo
Dr. Piero Medici
Dr. David Peck

Project partners

Architectural practice 'Space & Matter', Het Nieuwe Instituut


Dr. Piero Medici