Squaring the Circle

De BUCH teams up with Participatory City Making Lab to go circular

News - 18 March 2021 - Communication

Many of us understand the benefits of a circular economy. But translating the theory of a closed loop system into practice remains a challenge. That is why the Dutch government recently funded ten Circular Centres. These centres aim to prevent the disposal of reusable material by connecting local stakeholders. One of these awarded projects, collaboratively initiated by the four Dutch municipalities of Bergen, Uitgeest, Castricum and Uitgeest (De BUCH), decided to partner with an IDE Delft Design Labs on the project - the Participatory City Making Lab -  to raise awareness of the circular economy.

The Participatory City Making Lab is one of 15 Delft Design Labs established over recent years in TU Delft’s Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering. The labs aim to bring together scientists, students and societal partners to catalyse knowledge development and design innovation around a specific theme. In the case of the Participatory City Making Lab, led by Associate Professor Ingrid Mulder, the theme is participation in the public realm. By putting the dynamic urban environment at the heart of the lab’s work, Mulder and the students, researchers and partners of the lab want to cast a light on the changing role of design in a world in transition and research how participation in local experiments can build infrastructure and the capacity to change.

Serving a population of some 100,000 citizens, De BUCH recognised the potential benefit of a design approach in their quest to go circular. They enlisted the help of the lab to kick-start a circular network – an invisible infrastructure based on stakeholders inclusiveness, co-creation and collaboration – which will support the De BUCH Circular Centre. The role of Delft designers is in supporting local stakeholders in moving from initial ideas towards socially-enabled systemic changes. They are building capacity for design-enabled innovation and pinpointing the key role of participation in the development of a sustainable Circular Centre.

The work of the lab started with a group of IDE bachelor students in September 2019, whose final projects resulted in inspirational solutions using waste materials from the local recycling centre. Additionally, local high schools were involved to use their creative capacity to inspire De BUCH and raise awareness of the potential of a circular transition. In a second phase, four MSc graduate students are expanding participation, activating a wider spectrum of target groups, including civil servants and social entrepreneurs.

Design for Interaction Master student, Julian van Deursen is currently graduating on this project and is the third IDE student to do so. His focus is connecting local socio-economic initiatives to the newborn circular platform. His aim is to find the right parties within that region interested and capable of participating to the circular transition, and possibly to create a framework for circular participation to be implemented in similar projects from other municipalities as well.

The Participatory City Making Lab is looking for a fourth Master student to start in the coming period, to explore an active role for citizens in benefitting from the Circular Centre. You can click on the following link for more information on the lab, on the pilot programmes for Circular Centres, on Julian’s graduation project and on the results of last year’s MSc theses on De BUCH.