Can circular design help tackle the climate and biodiversity crises?

Micène Fontaine, January 26, 2023

As I update our Architecture and Design Threads, one stands out as gaining momentum: #13 Rethinking Cities.

Rethinking Cities

In the blurb accompanying this thread, I noted, "Cities won't change overnight, but they are ripe for reinvention. Step one is to zoom out and understand the ecosystems at play. Then we must find ways to embed our built environment into the natural world. Tough questions are bound to come up: Can we afford to build for resilience and stay put? If not here, then where? Are we mitigating symptoms or getting to the root cause of the issues? What's the goal: Future readiness or future fitness?"

Not a week goes by without a reminder that we need to tackle these tough questions and push for nature-based solutions biodiversity architecture. It easily gets overwhelming. Even though as Humans, we are wired to learn and grow, we can only stretch so far. The sweet spot is what educators call the Zone of Proximal Development.

For most of us, tackling the climate and biodiversity crises is too much of a stretch, especially on our own. It’s an ever greater stretch at a time when so many other priorities compete for our immediate attention.

With all the recent headlines about Artificial Intelligence and because of my limited capacity to project myself that far into the future, I turned to DALL-E, an OpenAI platform designed to generate digital images from a prompt in plain English. I asked DALL-E for a vision of the built environment in 3023. The image below on the left is what came up. 


What struck me  the most was the resemblance to a landscape I had discovered as a teenager when visiting Cappadocia in Turkey (right above). I was mesmerized by the two images.

Had we relearned how to live in symbioses with nature? Had we - little by little - stretched enough to ensure the survival of our species on Earth? Had we come full circle? Had the promise of circular design borne its fruits? I don't know, but at some point, it seems that we did what we've always done as a species. We took a step forward. We looked at where we were  and where we wanted to be and charted a path forward. Together, we Changed - by Design.

:Change by Design