In 2017, Professor Kate Raworth from Oxford University and Amsterdam University published the book “Doughnut Economics: seven ways to think like a 21st century economist”. The Doughnut, the core concept at the heart of Doughnut Economics (DE), is a tool for human prosperity in the 21st century to meet the needs of all people within the means of the living planet. It consists of two concentric rings, a social foundation and an ecological ceiling, and in between lies a doughnut-shaped space, the safe and just space where humanity can thrive1.
In 2018, at the Faculty of Architecture TU Delft (BK), Henri Van Bennekom supervised the graduation projects of four students2 who developed the AREA-Framework, a tool to guide the design interventions in the built environment, addressing DE. In Raworth's doughnut-shaped space, the AREA Framework introduced eight qualitative categories (and subcategories3) to address a resilient built environment. From 2019 until 2021, Van Bennekom adopted the AREA Framework in the AREA Design Studio at BK, TU Delft. Most involved researchers, practitioners, and students' feedback highlighted its limitations of being only qualitative, and its categories and subcategories being not sufficiently quantitative and measurable.
In 2020, several architectural practices from the Ex'tax network4, (e.g. RAU Architects, City Foerster, Superuse Studios, Space & Matter) involved in the TU Delft project 'Circularcity' 5 expressed the need for guidelines and toolkits to address the Circular Economy (CE) challenges comprehensively. Space & Matter proposed to develop a research, specifically focused on a tool similar to the AREA Framework, reckoning that DE is part of the Amsterdam policy to achieve a fully circular city by 20506; other practices from the Ex'tax network agreed on its importance. The following research question originated from the practices involved in Circularcity: “How to develop a tool similar to the AREA Framework further, from a quantitative and qualitative perspective, to support the architectural practices to implement DE in the built environment?”
The ultimate goal is to develop the Framework further, to increase the number of architectural practices successfully implementing the Doughnut Economics in the built environment at a national level. The Framework will contribute to positioning the architectural practices concerning DE and the CE. The project results are firstly an online open-access publication about the further developed Framework to be applied by architects; secondly, the preparation and submission of a follow-up research proposal about the extended development and implementation of the Framework applicable to the built environment by the Ex'tax construction sector companies.
The research method consists of testing the Framework through practice, education, and research, a cyclical process in which the first test in practice and education will further develop the following research phase.
Space & Matter will be the first practice to test the Framework on real projects; they are already acknowledged about applying principles regarding the Doughnut Economics on the built environment. It will be essential to apprehend which aspects of the Framework are particularly beneficial for real projects, unlock its potential, and assess its limitations in the four phases of analysis, design, construction and use7. After Space & Matter, a few other practices from the Ex'tax network, starting with Superuse Studios, will test the Framework on real projects.
Several architectural practices from the existing strong Ex'tax network, reinforced through a solid collaboration with an academic institution, will contribute through tests on real projects and workshops to further develop and implement the AREA Framework and create consortia to develop a follow-up application for a major EU research funding. Workshops with the TU Delft interdepartmental research group Circular Built Environment Hub8, the Amsterdam Donut Coalitie9, Kate Raworth10, will be organized to receive advice about the AREA Framework design method and further development. The AREA Framework will also be tested in education in Architecture, Architectural Engineering and Industrial Ecology academic courses, with SMEs and TU Delft leading, peer-reviewing and collecting feedback from students' work.
Testing the AREA Framework, especially on real projects, will be crucial; filling the gap between science and the real world is challenging and breaking through the trajectory leading to innovation.