Delta Atelier

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.

Let’s learn from ongoing practices
to guide future changes

Learning is more than collecting as many practices as possible. The beating heart of a continuous learning process is observing and analyzing practices in the (city) ports and port regions, following the dynamics and making the insights transferable. Mapping and analyzing a variety of practices helps to generate new insights in the here and now as well as new challenges and opportunities to be addressed in the future.

Exploring circular initiatives and projects from (city) port regions

The exploratory research started by collecting various circular initiatives and projects from 11 (city) ports in the Delta, before analysing and structuring them. The concept of circularity and (city) port was explored from different perspectives and aspects, and insights were gathered through interviews, debates and various working sessions.

The research of the initiatives and projects (cases) led to a better understanding of the state of innovation, as well as the individual and common needs for knowledge and support in relation to a structured transition to circular ports.

Joachim Declerck – Partner Architecture Workroom Brussels – on the lessons learned from the exploration phase
Overview investigated ports (AWB and 1010au, 2019)

The Case Collection

The explorative research was based on a benchmarking of 11 (city) ports in the Delta. The focus was on the actors and the system as an entry point to retain a broad perspective in the reading of (city) ports.

The process started with desktop research, enriched by interviews with key professionals, and served as input for a series of working sessions and debates. The sessions resulted in a documented case files, a comparative analysis (both descriptive and visual), an identification of the barriers and levers that (city) ports face in advancing circularity, and a first set of recommendations.

From documenting, collecting and understanding initiatives and projects (cases), the next step was to explore new strategies, stimulating frameworks and concrete actions in and for Circular (City) Ports.

Introducing eight Circular Building Blocks

Transferring individual practices – as they are – usually doesn’t work. Instead, core ideas, objectives, some elements of the process and modalities are more likely to be transferred and/or adapted to a new context. In addition, equivalents of some elements can be found that may work better in a specific context.

In exploring the possibilities for transferability and adaptability, eight ‘prototypical milieus or situations’ were finally identified that can be discerned in delta (city) ports. These ‘milieus’ are referred to as ‘building blocks’. They are a first step in identifying which elements will integrate the complex and constantly adapting assemblages that the port will need to create a circular ecosystem. Although not all of these building blocks are necessarily present in all of the selected (city) port areas, they capture the vibrancy of the answers that (city) ports and water-based areas provide to their explicit circularity objectives.

The hypothesis of the ‘building blocks’ is demonstrated here using a imaginary port-city corridor where a series of differentiated milieus coexist and create synergies to function as a circular system.

Nadia Casabella – Partner 1010 architecture urbanism – introducing Circular Building Blocks framework and content

You cannot build a circular (city) port system by simply stacking isolated projects and practices. Within these practices, we identify and explore certain prototypical milieus, situations or ‘building blocks’ to better understand not only the coexistence, but also the interactions and synergies in an overall circular system.


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