Interpreting Circularity. Circular City Representations Concealing Transition Drivers

Embodying circular economy transition as a sustainable city concept, circularity in cities is increasingly the subject of policy innovations, urban strategies, and research & development agendas. It seems evident that a circular city should include more than the sum or multiplication of urban circular economies. Nevertheless, prevailing discourses remain till today business focused, and how circular economy creates economic, social, and environmental resilience in cities has yet to be explored. This paper conceptualizes the notion of urban circularity. It introduces an analytical framework sorting existing circularity concepts that are based on design and planning characteristics. Adopting comparative case study research on four contemporary forward-looking spatial representations of 'circular' places, this paper articulates their circularity interpretation. Demonstrating how diverging sustainability framings and political positions are embedded within the studied spatial representations, this paper aims to bring clarity in contemporary circular city approaches for policymakers as well as for spatial practitioners. The paper concludes with an agenda for multi-perspective and multi-dimensional circular city design, which is anchored in place specific and multi-scalar transition relations. It suggests urban landscape design as a disciplinary field to act as a pivot in transdisciplinary circularity design and research.