Circular Economies: Buiksloterham

The flows, nature, actions and institutions of a city affect urban metabolism in its specific context (Swyngedouw 2006). In creating the sustainable urbanization it is important to balance socio-natural systems at play. The circular economy represents the most recent attempt at the integration of economic activity and environmental well-being in a sustainable manner (Murray et. al 2015). It’s done through a process of redesigning and cycling materials into a sustainable business model whilst incorporating social considerations along the way. When done well they can be testbeds for greater change in the urban landscape.

“(It) brings into question (the circular economy’s) potential as a site for and means to wider social and political change”

– Dawkins, 2011: 279


Having been made inept with the wake of globalization,  Amsterdam’s Buiksloterham neighborhood – once home to shipping and aviation industries – had until midway through the 2000s been dismissed as an non-inhabitable polluted waste land. Contrasting to previous land clearing and selling schemes in revitalization, Amsterdam’s decision to implement an interactive governance system at Buiksloterham had characterized a departure from traditional urban planning regimes and a nod towards the idea of a circular economy.

21.pngPhoto: Aerial View of the Buiksloterham Neighborhood in Amsterdam, 2015

Seen by the aerial shot above, the neighborhood’s proximity to water and the city centre attracted various entrepreneurs and young professionals that sought to take this opportunity to build a home of their own. The project, founded by a group of 252 citizens in collaboration Waternet and the city council, set to create an area focused on innovation and sustainable energy use. Proprietors were given private rights to plots of land and were given freedom to build; providing it worked within the legal constraints (“Huisregels”) of development in the zoning plan and regulations on rubbish, material use, energy and water (


Buiksloterham represents a multitude of different projects that aim to foster a ‘shared economy’. Placing citizens accountable for a greater share of public services requires individuals to implement changes for the collective well-being of the neighborhood (Parks and Warren, 2009).

22.pngFigure: Buiksloterham Circular Economy Plans, DEVA Landscape Architects 2015

By putting local actors in charge of planning, developments at Buiksloterham serve as a means to narrow the polarization that exists from complex actor-network relations in the city (Giezen and Roemers, 2015:23). The planning and re-creation of the derelict neighborhood has allowed it to reemerge into the public imaginary as a utopic ‘blank canvas’. It provided a platform for the creative class to make their mark on the city; drawing similarity to Detroit’s transformation from “motor city” into a “maker city” as described by Dawkins (2011). Looking forward, as the area gains attention and land prices in the area increase authorities must be cautious not to exclude the very people it wanted to attract…







Dawkins, N., 2011. Do-it-yourself: The precarious work and postfeminist politics of handmaking (in) Detroit. Utopian Studies22(2), pp.261-284.

Giezen, M. and Roemers, G., 2015. The Metabolic Planner: Reflection on Urban Planning from the Perspective of Urban Metabolism. Master Studio Urban Planning.

Murray, A., Skene, K. and Haynes, K., 2017. The circular economy: An interdisciplinary exploration of the concept and application in a global context. Journal of Business Ethics140(3), pp.369-380.

Parks, V. and D. Warren (2009). “The politics and practice of economic justice: Community benefits agreements as tactic of the new accountable development movement.”, Journal of Community Practice, 17(1-2), pp. 88-106.

Swyngedouw, E. (2006) “Circulations and metabolisms: (Hybrid) Natures and (Cyborg) cities”, Science as Culture, 15(2), pp. 105-121.


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