welcome to reburg - the circular city

In short

We developed a future circular city concept called Reburg, as a means to both update  Plan C’s 2008 vision on Sustainable Material Management to provide a framework for (entrepreneurial) innovators and society and provoke them to extend their thinking on the circular economy.

  • Year: 2016
  • Client: Plan C
  • website: Reburg
  • project lead: catherine van holder
what relevant changes have taken place since Plan C’s vision on sustainable material management was first created in 2008? | how can we integrate these and formulate an updated vision on the future of sustainable material management? | how can we use the updated vision to provide a framework for, as well as provoke innovators and society in general to extend their thinking about sustainable material management?

the project

A workshop was held at the Hof van Busleyden museum in Mechelen (B), where professionals of a more radical nature were invited to participate in an immersive future world building experience. Set up into four different stations were two opposing potential future worlds, presented in the form of a series of video clips and sounds. Participants were invited to explore the nature of each world themselves through conversation and debate. With the help of wooden building blocks and a landscape depicting a chart of principles and technological developments, the participants would rate what principles resonated most with that respective world, building a simulated future landscape. To give a more societal expression to each world, the participants then began to draw and write what the covers of magazines would say and what the headlines and stories in the local newspapers would be. Fictitious twitter, facebook and instagram feeds were also created.

welcome to reburg

From this experiment and along with the client, PlanC, we developed a future circular city concept called Reburg, as a means to provide a framework for innovators and society, to provoke them to broaden their thinking on the circular economy. PlanC’s vision for the future of the circular economy was translated into a series of relevant themes, which would become the framework for the upcoming interview pieces and the pillars of Reburg. They would be: Entangled Realities, Fabcities, Bio-Synthetics, and Hybrid Systems. Picking up on certain developments, both present and future, allows for the possibility to specualte on how they might manifest and affect our daily lives, especially how it shapes the current and future social fabric and interactions.

The city of Reburg would be told through the eyes of future professionals in a series of crafted multimedia scenarios, highlighting various touch points and giving insight into how ideas of circular economies could be adopted in the present.

an inter-relational system

Since today the tools exist to tell, deliver and share stories in more fluid and social ways, we decided to work along the idea of multimedia story-worlds. Around the Reburg website, as our main communications hub, we created a conceptual framework of several multimedia elements.

As an entry point to Reburg, PlanC network members received an object to spark their interest in #circularfutures. Next to that, PlanC was given access to and enabled to create any of a multitude of storytelling channels ranging from traditional postcards, ARG elements, social media, PR etc. as props to infuse the present world with snippets of #circularfutures and invite people to explore the Reburg stories online.

rendering futures tangible

By building a digital city on an online platform to capture the episodes, the concept not only became easily accessible from anywhere online but also had the capacity to be easily distributed via social media.

The city of Reburg is made up of a series of touchpoints, some specific to a certain future professional, but all connected and having some sort of overlap. Some of these touchpoints include:

optimised loops

Reburg is connected with other cities, creating the global circular trade system.

urban livers

They process residual streams into new high-value chemical components for Reburg’s industry.

coffee shops

The coffee shops at Reburg collect used grain to process them into new bio-chemical applications.

symbiosis tower

A vertical industrial park, where one business’ waste is another’s resource.

revive lane

A high-end shopping street for repurposing goods and services.

fab center

The intelligent startup zone for the urban manufacturing industry.

signals of change

In order for ‘future’ concepts and ideas to resonate, a link to the present is ever more crucial. ‘Signals of Change’ are bot the strong and the weak signals of deeper underlying changes that are currently happening in society. They are what those interacting with the site can grab onto and seek out, and also use as inspiration to find their own ways to make their own future visions manifest.

giving the future a voice

Creating future professionals and making them storytellers gave a voice to the concepts, building believability and creating a gateway into sometimes seemingly far-fetched scenarios. In fact, participants of the focus group wanted to meet these bright individuals, to further ask them questions and engage in a dialogue. This became the power of storytelling by considering the human interaction side of the design and implementation.


a series of stories bringing to life a vision of what a city built around the principles of a circular economy could look like
a framework, both storywise and technical, enabling the client to write and engage the audience in follow-up episodes of circular futures
service design materials including a remodeled user journey and personas, to facilitate taking on a traveler’s perspective