Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building at DDW23

Creative lead Lucas De Man and Pascal Leboucq about slowing down to speed up

Type Update
Published on 19 September 2023
Part of Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building
Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building at DDW23
Part of Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building

There’s certainly no shortage of challenges to building a more sustainable landscape. The same goes for solutions, which soon becomes clear when you speak to Pascal Leboucq and Lucas De Man. According to the creative leads of the Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building, it is crucial to involve the whole system in that shift if change is to be achieved. “We are constantly trying to take an even broader view than we did before.”

Lucas De Man actually doesn’t think much of the Dutch word ‘duurzaamheid’ -or the English variant ‘sustainability’. “To me, sustainability means ‘sustaining’, doing what you have always done, but with a little bit of green incorporated into it. Hidden in that term is the fact that you don’t really want to change,” says the originally Flemish artist and orator. “We say: we can make great buildings that are genuine nature. They can breathe, they live. If you want to build in a new, green, regenerative economy, it’s not about ‘sustaining’, but about a truly new vision.”

Slow down to speed up  

If you talk to Lucas De Man and Pascal Leboucq, together the creative leads of the Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building, you will realise that there is no shortage of such a vision. This is not something that De Man pulled out of thin air, as he himself points out, but it emerged from intensive discussions and knowledge gathering among as many stakeholders as possible. “To change a system, you have to involve as many people as possible and literally start with soil and water. From this basis, you have to look for different possible uses for a landscape. In other words, don’t say: we used to grow maize here, now we have to grow hemp, let’s go! No, first reflect thoroughly on what the consequences of that change will be and what conditions should be in place to ensure the soil is not destroyed again, but this time with hemp. To speed up in that process, you first have to slow down in order to get it right from now on.”

"But it is about concrete solutions and presenting tangible proposals. [..] We see applicability as essential.”
— Lucas De Man en Pascal Leboucq

System change

“It’s important that we as humans learn to reconnect with the landscape we live in,” De Man continues. “We try to learn this by involving all disciplines. Previously, we mainly focused on building materials, contractors, architects and manufacturers. Now we look much further afield than that.” 

“In order to change things, it is absolutely necessary to bring about a major systemic change,” Leboucq adds. “I draw on in-depth research from as many perspectives as possible.” The strength of the duo Leboucq – De Man is that in that search they don’t confine themselves to vistas, but that they come up with real possibilities. “Putting things on the agenda and raising them is all very well,” De Man says. “But it is about concrete solutions and presenting tangible proposals.” Leboucq: “We see applicability as essential.”

Regenerative city

An example of such an application is a multi-year Possible Landscapes Built Environment programme around the regenerative city, which the pair will spearhead after DDW23. “In that programme, we will be trying to see if we can take building methods one step further. In other words, we won’t just be thinking in terms of greenwashing where you simply deploy some new material, but we will be looking at and implementing construction in a fundamentally different way. Look, a city is also a landscape in which a lot of nature and life is already present. We’ll be looking into what regenerative solutions are possible in such an environment. What crops can you grow there? And how can a city perhaps become a production landscape in which you can grow crops on facades and roofs?”

 “We were recently asked for a project in Hong Kong,” says Leboucq. “Such a densely populated area is an extremely interesting environment when it comes to finding out what you can use and change.”

Possible Lanscapes in De Peel

It seems like quite a step from Hong Kong to De Peel, where the creative leads of the Embassy of CBB are looking at Possible Landscapes in the countryside where desiccation is a major problem. During DDW23, the Embassy will show what the current status of this programme is. De Man: “In both Hong Kong and De Peel, you have to bring parties together at a very local level to tackle that problem and to change a system.”

De Man and Leboucq brought together stakeholders from the entire chain in De Peel, such as farmers, processors, builders and residents, but also policy makers, designers and ecologists. The insights they gained from this led to Possible Landscapes model installations in which various scenarios have been made physically tangible. The model shows the landscape and what grows in the area, but also possible business models of farms in De Peel. “We show which possible housing options you could land there,” says Leboucq. “But also which crop is best to grow at which water level. You can divide a farm into different zones where different crops are grown each time. The farmer of the future will have to be flexible. In this way, the farmer and the farm become more resilient and you create a new revenue model. It is a blueprint of how you can make a farm add value to the environment.” 


Leboucq and De Man say they want to ensure that the solutions they come up with can accommodate future changes in society and the landscape. “We don’t know exactly what will change,” says De Man. “And so you can’t start drawing everything out. But a few core values ​​will always remain important: namely the belief that people can participate, that nature should and can be there again, that the soil and water must be good and that a farmer does not go bankrupt. These are already fairly concrete and logical values. If you put them next to each other and add them up, you will get there.”

In order to make that sum, imagination and design power are important, says De Man. “We do this based on a reverse Calimero effect. Because it’s not about me, or about us. We ourselves are unimportant. But the work we do as artists and designers certainly is.”

chapter-arrow icon-arrow-down icon-arrow-short icon-arrow-thin icon-close-super-thin icon-play icon-social-facebook icon-social-instagram icon-social-linkedin icon-social-twitter icon-social-youtube