2023 Retrospective: Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building

If we want to build a sustainable world, we have to consider the system as a whole. That’s what the multi-year programme ‘Possible Landscapes’ stands for, and what the Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building allowed visitors to see, hear and experience during DDW23. The studio “Biobased Creations,” as the Embassy’s creative lead, is collaborating with stakeholders and knowledge partners from the construction and agriculture sectors to explore new perspectives for a sustainable living environment. “We’re constantly trying to take on an even broader perspective than we did before,” according to creative lead Lucas De Man. During DDW23, the Embassy brought together many stakeholders to present their collective ambition to open a travelling exhibition in 2024 and a regenerative pavilion in 2025.

Type Update
Published on 24 November 2023
Part of Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building
2023 Retrospective: Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building
Part of Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building

‘Om te kunnen versnellen in dat proces, moet je eerst vertragen om het vanaf nu goed te doen.’

System change does not happen overnight, as the Embassy’s creative leads are well aware. At the same time, it’s important to maintain the necessary acceleration. “To change a system, you have to involve as many people as possible, starting literally with the soil and water,” explains De Man. “And, beginning from that baseline, we can explore a landscape’s potential applications. 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.”

To learn more about the thinking behind the required system change, you can read the entire interview with the Embassy’s creative leads here.

Creating a shared vision together

The Embassy brought together various stakeholders for a well-attended event during DDW23. Approximately 100 delegates, each with different expertise, participated in wide-ranging discussions. At the start of the event, De Man highlighted the fact that “We have to work together create a vision.” “In doing so, we need to move the conversation to another level than just talking about the issues. After all, we are well aware of the issues at this stage. We need to discuss all the possibilities.”

You can read the entire report of the conference here.

Regenerative city and infrastructure

DDW23 also served as the kick-off for the Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building’s new programme “Possible Landscapes for the Regenerative City and Infrastructure.” How can biobased materials be used to build nature-inclusive structures? How can buildings and infrastructures be converted into “new nature” that adds value to the city? These are some of the core questions that the Embassy will continue to explore in the coming years, and for which the exhibition and sessions at DDW23 provided space. 

A good example of this is the project “Third Place – Zwanenburg”. For this project, “Possible Landscapes for Biobased Infrastructure – Zwanenburg” investigates the potential chains and landscapes to support bio-based and nature-inclusive civil structures, such as bridges, tunnels and sheet piling. For this investigation, Hoeve Zwanenburg and the Oirschot area function as a “Third Place”: a social environment that’s separate from home and work, such as a cafe, coffee shop, footpath or park. The first session of this investigation took place during DDW23.

Exhibition DDW23

At DDW23, various elements of the programme “Possible Landscapes” were shown at the Ketelhuisplein, such as “Hoge zandgronden – Achterhoek” (high sand soil – Achterhoek), which investigated the possibilities for sustainably designed landscapes that have sufficient water and healthy “farmer-to-builder chains.” During the exhibition, the entire area where the investigation took place was displayed in a 3D print created by Omlab, made entirely from natural materials.  

Another beautiful example of a sustainably designed landscape, which could be seen on Ketelhuisplein, was “Rain Reef,” part of the broader “Urban Reef” project. During DDW23, visitors could examine a 3D-printed structure designed to act as a water reservoir bio-receptive to algae and mosses.

The Tower of Babel, by Design Studio Babel (Shams Hazim & Iris Bekker), also captured the public’s imagination. This studio has developed a shelter that provides refuge for insects during extreme weather conditions, such as heavy rain and extreme drought. The tower collects rainwater and supplies it to the plants growing around the tower during periods of drought. These plants are essential for a healthy living environment for our little friends that, in turn, are essential for a thriving ecology.

System Change

The national multi-year programme “Building Balance,” featured in the exhibition, is a powerful example of the need to be willing and able to change the entire system. “Building Balance” is designed to accelerate the use of biobased raw materials in construction by encouraging and supporting independent, regional and national “land to property” or “farmer to builder” chains. The exhibition featured an installation of four crop-product combinations. The installation demonstrated what can be constructed from hemp, grain straw, misacanthus (ornamental grasses) and flax.

For a visual recap of the other great elements of the exhibition as well as the ideas that the Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building presented during DDW23, check out the Embassy Tour video.

Would you like to contribute to the Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building or are you curious about the developments? Sign up for the newsletter, visit the Embassy homepage or contact us.

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