Circular development is becoming a more prominent driving force in circles of urban academics and practice. In Stockholm, KTH Royal Institute of Technologys Urban Economics program for master students in the School of Architecture are diving deep into what circular development means for the cities of tomorrow. For instance, the program asks: How we can understand global crises, phenomena and conditions at diverse scales? Delving into what tools, theoretical frames and practices might allow us to imagine other economic futures, the program further asks: How can we, as planners, designers and theorists, bring these envisioned realities into being?

In exploring this complex web of relations, infrastructures, affects, commodities, rights and regulations through diverse theoretical and practical lenses in academic, architectural and planning fields, the program organized a two-day lecture/workshop on circular development together with CITIES.

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In line with this course, CITIES’ co-founders Francesca Miazzo and Anna Hult teamed up to deliver a two-day lecture/workshop. In the lecture on day one, Francesca presented WASTED as a practical example of how to implement a circular economy at the neighborhood level. On day two, they hosted the workshop “Rethinking Urban Progress”, where the students analyzed a new local urban redevelopment area in Stockholm. Students focused on Gill Seyfang’s principles of ‘Ecological Citizenship’.

What’s Ecological Citizenship? According to Seyfang (2011, p. 170), it comes from the New Economics, which “offers a more radical analysis and proposes that sustainable consumption requires the development of five interlinked processes: Localization, Reducing ecological footprints, Community-building, Collective action and Building new social infrastructure of systems of provisions. Tying these together is a new environmental ethic, Ecological Citizenship, which calls on citizens to take personal responsibility for the social and environmental impacts of their actions, but simultaneously to engage politically to transform wider societal conditions and institutions“ (Seyfang, 2011, 170).

Here’s a breakdown of Seyfang’s five interlinked processees of Ecological Citizenship:

1. Localization: working towards a self-reliant local economy, import-substitutions, increasing the local economic multiplier, reducing the length of supply chains.

2. Reducing ecological footprints: Reducing the inequity of consumption patterns; cutting resource-use, demand- reduction, carbon-reduction, and low carbon lifestyle.

3. Community building: Nurturing inclusive, cohesive communities where everyone’s skills and work are valued, building a network of support through social capital, encouraging participation to share experiences.

4. Collective action: enabling people to collaborate and make active decisions about things that affect their lives, changing the wider social context through the institutionalization of a new norm: active citizenship.

5. Building new infrastructure of provision: Establishing new institutions and socio-technical infrastructure on the basis of New Economics, value of wealth, work and progress.

With these principles in mind, students answered the following questions at the end of the workshop:

1. How do these perspectives change our view of urban development and progress?

2. Which norms and ideas of progress and sustainability are questioned? And which perspectives are enhanced?

3. What could they mean for urban planning and design practices?

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Groups had different roles, such as an urban developer or grass roots initiative. Below, we share the students’ answers to questions above:

Program to reduce food waste.
Farm the hill and providing a scheme where you bring your compost in exchange for discounts.

Aquaponics fish provision for local restaurants.
Use fish and vegetables particular to the local area.

Reduction of private car ownership.
Share your bike and your car together by using software, by making narrower streets that are more bike friendly, and increasing tax on private car ownership.

Community shared cars and bikes.
Use software system that gives you credits for biking, giving you discounts on car use. Also have local bike maintenance and bike friendly events. For car owners who offer their car for sharing, they have access to other cars and share auto related costs.

Online market to trade, swap, buy and share.
Offer goods and services within neighborhood.

Platform to exchange services.
Have service swopping scheme, along with annual festival about sustainable idea exchange.

Reset the requirements for the housing building process.
Think about where construction material comes from; use material that can be sourced or recycled locally; and create educational programs to professionalize people to be able to build with local materials.

Gym supplies electricity for the block.
Private owners invest in new energy scheme.

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In 2014, CITIES published We Own The City: Enabling Community Practice in Architecture and Urban Planning. We Own The City was inspired, in part, by the increasing activity and influence of citizens in working to shape their urban environments, contrasted with more traditional planning methods that are struggling to align with more dynamic development processes. This break between ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ appeared to need a bridge; to provide tools and understanding to actors both at the ‘bottom’ and the ‘top’ in order to advance more inclusive urban development processes in making the cites of tomorrow. Taking an in depth look at 16 case studies from 5 major global cities and interviewing leading Dutch architects, We Own The City is consequently part of a larger research initiative focused on these ends: advancing more inclusive urban development practices.

The ideas generated by future city makers in Stockholm resonate with We Own The City’s theme, where students in groups as both urban developers and grass roots initiatives spotlighted pathways for development that call for innovative collaborations between both bottom-up and top-down actors. As students were analyzing their casework in line with principles of Ecological Citizenship, we see the results as an indicator that for more ecologically sound, circular development to be implemented in cities of tomorrow, more inclusive methods such as those highlighted in We Own The City will play a central role.

We Own The City and Seyfang’s processes of Ecological Citizenship are relevant catalysts in advancing new knowledge and practice. Future development projects in this vein remain areas of opportunity and learning for city making. The ways in which the processes of development unfold will continue driving innovation. WASTED is a real-world example of one such idea being implemented, where social, built, economic and environmental areas are being tested, altered and advanced.

Text: Mehdi Comeau

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April 2015 CITIES partnered with KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm to give a lecture and workshop, spotlighting CITIES’ project WASTED in relations to principles of Ecological Citizenship in urban development.

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KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

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