Together with Delta Atelier, we have embarked on a journey of dialogue, exploration and knowledge sharing around the challenge of circular (urban) ports. Explore this journey supported by several working sessions, debates, research and exhibitions in the context of the ‘cultural space’ created by the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam and its Brussels component You Are Here. While some of the proposed actions were temporary, others have become permanent and tangible.
About the Delta Atelier
The Delta Atelier manifested itself in many meetings, conversations, work sessions, brainstorms, debates, work notes, research, designs, conferences and exhibitions. The results are many and diverse: acceleration programs in the Netherlands and Belgium, spin-offs and new cross-border collaborations (AWB, 2021).
The Delta Atelier was supported by the Ministry of the Interior in Flanders and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Netherlands.
Circular (City) Ports in the Delta
Both in the exploration Lage Landen 2020-2100 (Low Lands 2020-2100. A foresight) and in the context of the IABR-2018+2020-THE MISSING LINK and You Are Here (YAH) ports and the circular economy were a recurring focus and priority.
The Circular Ports of the Delta was a theme of the Delta Atelier Working Conference (mid-2018), where four trajectories were set out, focusing on the four scales at which circular ports operate: the company, the (city) port (city-port interface), the port region (regional scope of the port) and the Delta region (circular mainframe).
The Circular (City) Port scale was initiated by the Delta Atelier and Circular Flanders as a community of practice, together with the Dutch and Belgian port authorities, the Dutch Ministry of the Interior, the relevant port cities, public officers and port experts. The exploratory process (Oct 2018 – Apr 2021) was about the future transformation of (city) ports, in which circularity will play an important role.
We are in the middle of something
In the transition to a circular economy and cities, our ports are key. Today, the Delta’s ports are still largely logistics transit ports, importing finished goods and materials from distant countries for distribution across the continent. With the transition to a circular economy and the re-shoring of production to our cities and region, ports will take on a new function: as energy producers and distributors, material banks, recycling yards, innovative industrial port clusters or as the base of new maritime economies.
Source: International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam and Architecture Workroom Brussels, for Delta Atelier
Partner at AWB
Collaborator at AWB
Collaborator at AWB
Partner at 1010au
Collaborator at 1010au
How change can be delivered (aka the missing link)
With ‘vision’ we make the theory of change as explicit as possible. Theories of change are the ideas and hypotheses (theories) that people, organisations and networks have about how change happens. The theories presented here for the circular port transition are based on assumptions about reality, what is at stake and how change can be brought about.
Is this the ultimate way to work on change? We are aware that different theories of change and visions can conflict with each other, and that the assumptions behind these visions and theories may not stand up to new developments, debates and counter-arguments. It is therefore important to understand our theory of change and the assumptions of different port actors and governments on which it is based.
Between ambitious goals and first movers
Top-down: ambitious goals
Circularity is becoming one of the key priorities at European, national, regional and local levels. The targets set impose very high standards for the future circular functioning of our everyday life, questioning the mode of production and the systems in which it is embedded. Looking at the past and future steps that need to be taken to realise such a systemic transformation, it is clear that there is a lack of a defined framework and an interpretation of the targets in terms of smaller stepping stones. The question is how these fundamental changes – related to sustainability policy, energy transition, the introduction of a non-fossil-based economy, together with digitalisation and automation – will actually become operational in our reality.
The Missing Link
The gap between the ambitious goals set at all levels and the many innovative practices is clear. It is the starting point for discussions, research and collaboration to understand how the bigger goals can be translated on the ground and how ongoing practices can be structurally managed to have a substantial impact.
Bottom-up: innovative initiatives
At the same time, many innovative circular initiatives are flourishing in the broad field of practice. They are very active in strategising about the coming transition, looking for new ways of functioning, new economic values and collaborations to accelerate the necessary shift towards circularity. However, they lack a structured framework in which to position themselves and where their efforts can be multiplied, scaled up and disseminated.