Circular and social, article

Circular and social

Fulco Treffers and Marjo van Schaik worked together on a article about circular building and social ambitions, for the cooperative network of Cirkelstad.

This so called ‘green paper’ gives an answer to the following question ‘How does circularity relate to social objectives?’ It gives a fundamental perspective on this, to look at circularity from the social viewpoint, to find ways to connect the system world and the real life world. The theories of Kate Haworth, Jurgen Habermas, Bruno Latour and Stewart Brand are used to find a set of values to build on. Next to the fundamental perspective, the practical approach can be found. All topics and theories come with links to interesting and inspirational projects.

The document will be the base for the Cirkelstad community on this topic, and will be discussed, enriched, adjusted for a more social circular building future.

Download the pdf (in Dutch only).

Period: Jan-May 2023
For: Cirkelstad
With: Mare

Soledar, city perspective (Ukr)

Soledar, city strategy, landscape design

“The gift of salt” is het meaning of the name of Soledar, a small  town in the East of Ukraine. For Izolyatsia, a cultural platform originally based in the city of Donetsk, this town reflects the situation of Ukraine as it is right now: a typical soviet town close to the occupied area. The war is only 30 km away. People are leaving because of the lack of work and cultural and social movement.


Question to 12N was: how do public spaces help to change the perspective of the city? 12N Urban Matters invited Mare as a specialist in public cultural venues. The result after a short time research and design project was an art installation and video of our work.

The aim is to make  a connection between under and above ground; under the ground in the salt mines is a touristic and cultural world. We suggest to make the magic of downside visible upside by using lights and redefining public space. Developing the centrally located city park and a hill at the side of the town called Yurchina will turn this place upside down. By putting the down side up.

The central park has old stories to tell. It is now a transit route, mainly used to walk through as a nice or short way from one place to another. There are memories of how it once was. That’s the sentiment. The sense of being together, of care, needs a new imagination, a different language. We will put a new layer over the old, but the old will always remain visible. We can also add something new, a different view, a new perspective, that gives hope and fun.

The design is a zoning plan and relatively cheap solutions for improving the urban furniture, art objects and program, plants and trees, without removing everything that is already there. Plus, we propose to add a view tower in the centre of the Park. An extra tower, referring to the shape as the mine shafts, reusing old elements of the industrial parts. An old shape, a different form: a beacon of air and light. Connected to the other shafts in the city by colourful flags. Distinct from the other, asking to be climbed rather than descend.

Local vlogger Pavel made this video about it.

For: Izolyatsia cultural platform
Period: December 2021
With: Marjo van Schaik, Mare

Innovator Berlijnplein

Berlijnplein Utrecht _ Innovator, co-creator and circular expert

Berlijnplein. An area of ​​9000 m2, built in a circular manner, with a mix of outdoor and indoor spaces, special architecture, surprising installations, a diverse cultural program and workspaces for artists. A place where you can meet, wander and be surprised by art and design. A place where you can actively work and where there is always something different to do and experience.

In this project, Fulco Treffers can use all the experience he has gained over the years in participation and co-creation, area development, the art and culture sector, spatial design and circular construction. Collaboration, translation, connection, innovation, deepening: As account manager for innovation, Fulco represents a link in the project team between the various substantive goals and between the civil servants, market parties and cultural partners.

There is one overarching theme: The future of the city. Now that more and more people live and work in an urban environment, this is becoming an urgent theme. How do we keep our cities healthy and liveable? What is the role of technology? How will the social relations in the city of the future become? Who does the city actually belong to? A fascination for these kinds of questions about the future of the city is what connects all “residents” and visitors to Berlin Square. They will work together on it, from various fields and resources, such as the arts, design, technology, journalism, socio-cultural (youth) work and education.

The program is intended for a wide target group; from families in Leidsche Rijn who stay there on a Sunday afternoon, young people from the area who are challenged to become makers themselves or to participate, to culture lovers from far beyond who attend a special event.

This story has now been elaborated and established as “Development Framework Berlin Square”. A large new theater was conceived in Leidsche Rijn center years ago. But now we work in a different, organic way. Form follows ambition. This is where the future of the city is made. With culture, with meeting, with building, with the neighborhood and with high-profile projects. And – not least – according to circular principles.

In this project, Fulco Treffers can use all the experience he has gained over the years in participation and co-creation, area development, the art and culture sector, spatial design and circular construction. Collaboration, translation, connection, innovation, deepening: As account manager for innovation, Fulco represents a link in the project team between the various substantive goals and between the civil servants, market parties and cultural partners.

and as a booklet: Development Framework Berlin Square

Commissioned by: municipality of Utrecht, RAUM, DePlaatsmaker
In collaboration with: Copper8, Tender People, Bestwerk, Beeldstories
Pictures: Felice Hofhuizen (boven), Han Ernest (onder)

Circular design

Circular architecture

In this house just at the border of Amsterdam there is a maximum innovation in new and reused materials, old technologies, biobased solutions and nature based design.
Here are some first pictures. More pics and text to follow.

Period: January 2020 – May 2021 (design and realisation)
With: Mark Luiken – Groenluik, Mario van der Linden, Huibert Spoorenberg.

Space-S, social co-creation

Space-S_Customer driven design in social housing _ Multiple award winning!

“What would you build here on Strijp-S? What kind of a program, shape? We have calculated that about 400 homes could be built. But how and in what way?

Woonbedrijf came to 12N Urban Matters with this question in 2012. It was an invitation to think about living on Strijp-S – a wasteland on Eindhoven’s largest transformation area. An area where former Philips factories and office buildings were transformed into “the cultural heart of Eindhoven”.

It was a question every designer craves for. But also a question that gnaws at conscience: I have always stated that a designer should approach large developments with restraint. Too many Dutch locations and landscapes have been ruined by uniformity, by building too much in the same style and at the same time. And now, what have I done…?

A second question quickly arose: do I really know what residents want? A house with a garden? A penthouse above the city? What else? And what if they can’t afford that? Isn’t it more differentiated than that?

Therefore, my answer to the corporation was that we must ask future residents what they want, in terms of how they want to live. We do this in existing neighborhoods. We could also do that in new constructions. So, my proposal was: 12N would rather like to design the process for this, than the building itself. Of course with the knowledge of urban and architectural design.

That led to a lot of educational moments. About designing. About theory and practice of involvement. About changes in organizations. But especially about living. That it is not just about a good floor plan, but about living in a broader sense: about neighbors, about renting, about safety and community, about the inside and the outside.

I wish a process like this for every resident, for every designer and for every commissioning party. It is, and was, worth gold.

It was never boring. Playing the saxophone to do a sound test with the residents. Taking a day trip up to and down from Paris in order to view example projects and to have a lot of conversations. Accomplishing deadlines because, despite all the meetings and conversations, the schedule had to be achieved. And camping a night on the construction site, at the initiative and invitation of the active core.

Fulco Treffers was able to use the full breadth of his experience as project leader of a large team of Woonbedrijf, Stam + De Koning and advisors. As an urban designer in the team at Urhahn. As a structural engineer in responding to proposals from architect Inbo and contractor Stam + De Koning. As a workshop developer and session leader at all meetings with residents.

By inviting Rutger Büch and Stefan Herwich to the project team, knowledge about customer-driven working and the use of social media was strengthened. Such strategic knowledge is now used in other projects and cities.

Customer-driven goes beyond customer-oriented
We are familiar with the customer-driven approach: the customer comes first, we listen carefully, communicate well. 12N Urban Matters went a few steps further at SPACE-S by actually giving the customer a leading role. Why don’t we apply that in a new construction project as well?

We are proud of the result. There’s no slowdown, but rather an acceleration in comparison to regular. There’s no budget overrun. There have been various awards and nominations, and hundreds of national lectures have been given. But above all: there is a group of residents with a beautiful place to live.

The design: from the outside in
Everything was different from the start. Even before an architect was picked, future residents had discussed their wishes for their new living space and environment. This change in procedures required a continuous flexible attitude of the Woonbedrijf staff, who kept a clear goal in mind and had to rely on the process.

In December 2016 the first units of Space S were ready to be occupied. The train is rolling, the final design choices for the common areas are made and the residents’ association has been strengthened. 12N has transferred knowledge and experience with workshops and excursions to the residents and employees of Woonbedrijf.

The role of 12N Urban Matters is over. The project was completed, and the project has begun.

Download the project book here: SPACE-S _ 12N

Commissioned by: Woonbedrijf
Period: 2013-2017


  • Vanenburg Award 2014 (corporation prize)
  • Dirk Roosenburg Prize 2017 jury prize, best building in Eindhoven
  • Dirk Roosenburg Prize 2017, public prize, best building in Eindhoven
  • Best building of 2018, in the Livability & Social Cohesion category, by Bond Nederlandse Architecten (BNA)
  • Best building of 2018, public vote, organized by BNA in collaboration with Volkskrant
  • European Collaborative Housing Award 2019, First prize for the best social housing project in Europe
  • World Habitat Silver Award United Nations

Circular housing concept

Research circular social housing

Social Housing corporation Woonbedrijf has established in its sustainability policy that they want to be circular within now and 10 years. An experiment has been started to achieve this. The aim was to build 15 social rental homes from its own raw materials. The building decree is the starting point and the houses are suitable for the target group of the corporation.

A team of various parties, including 12N Urban Matters, came together to take the next step in sustainable social housing. It is very important to develop, experiment and learn from this. Residents were involved to think along, to design. Fulco Treffers was responsible for landscape design and connecting with the residents and ambitions regarding learning, recording and presentation to the outside world.

In collaboration with: Inbo architects, Van Liempd, Baetsen, Stam + De Koning

Museum design Mariupol (Ukr)

MaMy Mariupol Museum_Port of memories

Memories are hidden in the soul of the building. Some of these memories re­flect good times: the residential era and the gymnasium episode. Some reflect bad times: the shootings, the war, the ruins.

The architecture in this plan recognizes, acknowledges and honours the past, ánd reaches for the future. Both the traditional and progressive minded citizens relate to the building as if it’s theirs. The old façades along the public streets will be kept, renovated and updated with large windows. A new contempo­rary building arises behind the old wall and brings in a new era. It is made of concrete columns and floors, and wooden framed glass. The double façades represents the tension and the collaboration between old and new, closed and open, private and public.

The stone walls will partly be covered by wooden panels. All Mariupol residents will be asked for their memories in diaries, small text books or post cards. Hun­dreds, thousands of memories about the city, the bombing or daily life will be collected during a project that will be organized around the entire city. All these memories will be burnt on wooden panels and become part of the collective soul of the place. The panels will be placed on the exterior of parts of the old wall, with the text or drawing to the backside. Like personal secrets to store. Only one key word out of each memory will be written at the front side share the collective feeling.

The building connects activities, people, spaces. From outside to inside. From floor to floor, room to room. With many opportunities to sit, talk and reflect. New memories will be collected in a public art installation in the vertical void. The coffee bar (-1) and the restaurant (top floor) mark the endpoints.

The floorplan is open, spatial and flexible to cover different kinds of events, even at the same time. The building will show new perspectives through art, programs, meetings, events and architecture. In all possible ways the architec­ture and interior design invites to feel welcome and to participate.

The entrance, elevators and stairs are situated to create a very flexible floorplan and simple routes for the program now and in the future. The outside kiosk with a shop, coffee and tickets counter is an option to improve the quality of public space and marks the museum seen from Teatral’na Square.

The artist residency is organized on the first floor with its own entrance and staircase. To accentuate their presence and energy of the artists their main place to meet and work is situated inside the old foot bridge at the back. Yearly an artist can be asked to change the exterior look and feel of the old bridge.

The name MaMy stands for Mariupol Museum. A modern name for the new institute, with a wink to MoMa (New York) or MMMA (Moscow). But also refer­ring to the Russian and Ukrainian word for ‘mother’, the one who has known you all your life and keeps your memories and secrets, and the one we can always talk to.

Contribution to the architecture competition in Mariupol “Port of Cultures”. With 49 entries from 21 countries.

Download the design

In collaboration with: Egor Shtefan en Hannah Pikovska
Period: January 2020

Park house Severodonetsk (Ukr)

Severodonetsk_Park and cultural venue

12N was invited as the chief designer of a park design and a public building. The design for a multifunctional city park (2 ha) containing a public building for meeting, culture and work. The aim of the design is to show the local stakeholders the potential of the area in order to generate support and finances for its realization.

The park is a “forgotten” area in the center of Severodonetsk, a city close to the Russian border and the war zone. Severodonetsk was designed through consistent application of socialist principles, but has, in recent decades, deteriorated considerably in maintenance and management. The former sports fields are now vacant sand and mud, but have the potential to be a pearl in the chain of public facilities in the city.

In a short time, a team of colleagues from Tbilisi (Georgia) and Severodonetsk (Ukraine) worked on participation, park design, and the design of a multifunctional cultural location. Fulco Treffers was responsible for the overall design of the park and the building. Colleagues from Georgia were primarily responsible for participation, demand specification and organization. The colleagues from Severodonetsk worked on the 3D model and the landscaping.

Residents from the city were invited, through seven sessions, to think about the functionality of the 2-hectare park. The input has led to a diversity of possible indoor and outdoor activities for the park. A choice has been made to divide the park into a number of zones, each with its own character suited for different target groups. This creates a soft separation between quieter and more dynamic areas, between open zones that can be filled in freely and those which could be pre-planned. Cultural events are organized from and near the park building, where indoor activities also take place. There is a strong relationship between building and park in material, greenery, form and use of color.

The design of the building takes into account a compact base that is technically easy to solve, providing a cost-efficient layout. Due to the roof shape and glass part, the building stands out from the gray Soviet architecture, which was rang out as an important signal throughout the participation sessions. Within the strong orthogonal structure of the city, the park provides a new, poetic soft addition to the urban fabric. Due to the relatively low labor costs, choice of material, plants and trees, play equipment and management and maintenance have been taken into account.

Commissioned by: USAID and Severodonetsk Municipality
Period: February – March 2020

Urban design in participation

Utrecht_Sustainable future

Getting off your bike for a little chat. Cross the street to get a doner. Quickly park the car to do the weekly shopping at the grocer and Iranian specialist. Go for a walk with the pram. Walk home from the station in a few minutes. Have a bite to eat with a few friends at Surinamese restaurant down the street.

Sociability. Crowds. Urban dynamics. And peace, daily life, going to school, playing in the street and sitting in the garden. But also the experience of a messy and unsafe Kanaalstraat and Damstraat, by speeding cars, youngsters hanging, laughing gas users and a long history of incoming and outgoing residents. Plus the huge developments in the immediate vicinity of the station and the Jaarbeurs, affecting areas such as traffic and health.

Local businesses and residents have a huge drive to turn their area in a beautiful and special place. They are supported by 12N Urban Matters, and Frans Werter and Suzy Koot of Buro de Steeg. Together with stakeholders, a sustainable future for the charming little district is discussed. Sometimes, there is a conflict of interest between business owners and residents, and they try to find a solution together. Sometimes very constructively and collectively, and sometimes stubborn and opposed. But always in dialogue . A very complex task, where traffic, economy, health, sustainability, organization, planning, housing and community development interlock. And a great challenge for 12N Urban Matters.

The vision
The Kanaalstraat and Damstraat will continue to be lively shopping streets in a residential area, known far outside of Utrecht. Many people visit the Kanaalstraat: people from Utrecht West, the rest of the city and even further beyond. You can come here by bus, bicycle, on foot or by car. Everyone feels at home, safe and pleasant in the Kanaalstraat and Damstraat. It is neat and clean here, with a Mediterranean “look and feel”. This is truly a multicultural society, in the very heart of the city. The different groups of Dutch people mix and meet, but also keep their own customs and habits, and all of that without hassle, trouble or irritation. Despite everything being busy and close together, despite so many inhabitants on a square kilometer. Not the most decent neighborhood in the city, but also one far from rough and unsafe.

Today, the Kanaalstraat and Damstraat are versatile streets, as well as they will be in the future. Currently, the residents and shopkeepers experience regular nuisance from youth or petty crime. Or from the traffic that is chaotic and dangerous. Pedestrians, cyclists and cars regularly get in each other’s way. We want to solve that.

That is why our main vision includes:

  • safe and quiet way of living and growing up in a beautiful, clean and sustainable environment
  • shops and catering: for the neighborhood, the city and the rest of the Netherlands
  • maintaining the current multicultural character; more diversity of products completes the street
  • space for all residents and entrepreneurs (no crowding)
  • higher quality of appearance, spacious for more greenery, meeting and residing
  • accessibility and safety for car, bicycle, pedestrian and public transport, as well as more space for pedestrians
  • Damstraat as an entrance to Lombok without any shortcuts

Offered and accepted
Each of the above points corresponds to concrete measures in the vision. And, it includes: a redesign of the public space, added space for pedestrians, one-way traffic for cars on the Kanaalstraat and monitoring of the parking situation in the residential streets.The vision was presented by the neighborhood in December 2017 and offered to the councilor. The city council subsequently passed a motion encouraging the councilor to find money necessary for implementation as soon as possible.

Click here for the vision
Click here for the blog
Click here for the infographics about the process until mid-April

Commissioned by: municipality of Utrecht
Serving: entrepreneurs and residents of Lombok
In collaboration with: Frans Werter (Buro de Steeg) & Suzy Koot (Bureau Lokahi)
Period: October 2016 – December 2017

Social housing process

Drents Dorp_Social and spatial transformation

Eindhoven is booming. Strijp is hot. But Drents Dorp Oost, in between all major developments of Strijp S, R and T, seemed to be on a permanent break. Drents Dorp consists of almost only small, low cost houses, largely built by Philips between 1925 and 1930. When Philips left Eindhoven, the neighborhood spiraled down. Unemployment, crime, anonymity and personal problems prevailed. Not only the houses, but also the local people needed some attention.

Drents Dorp is not a place for the very faint of heart; it’s a typical blue collar area with lots of colorful residents. Most of them feared that the area would be demolished, feeding suspicion and anger towards the housing corporation. But Woonbedrijf didn’t demolish, the corporation decided to maintain and invest in the neighborhood.
In 2011,  12N Urban Matters was asked to work with residents on a local vision for Drents Dorp Oost. Starting point was preservation of the urban structure, and maintaining the affordability of the homes.

Major maintenance

Drents Dorp is no place for massive participation evenings in anonymous venues. It is, however, a place for small talk with your neighbors, for informal and lowkey conversation. So 12N organized meetings on a street by street level, at home with one of its residents. Dubbed the ‘Tupperware method’, it was a quick and easy way to talk to people about their homes and neighborhood.

What do you want, what don’t you want, what choices can we make together when it comes to major maintenance of the neighborhood? Connect people and then translate their wishes: after nine months 12N presented a social- spatial plan. In collaboration with more than half of the total number of residents, it showed the wishes, ambitions and commitments for housing, the public space and social interaction in the area. It presented clear choices for residents.

The major maintenance in Drents Dorp is now finished. The majority of residents is satisfied. One looks back on an admittedly radical maintenance, but with much appreciation for the way 12N involved residents in the process.

Social cohesion

When Philips left Strijp and Eindhoven, Drents Dorp lost a thread in its history. This had major consequences. A neighborhood where many people worked, knew each other and cared for each other, Drents Dorp turned into an anonymous place with high unemployment and anonymity.

How do you spark a newly discovered energy and a newly developed identity? That required an out of the box strategy.
Along came the Drents Dorp Angels, a concept designed by 12N and Anemoon Geurts (moon|and|co). Three girls working in the creative industry challenged the residents, sometimes literally, to cross ther threshold of their doors and join in for various activities. For exampke a festival for the both most loved and hated local residents: pets., and annual participation in one of Eindhovens most important events: the Dutch Design Week.  A successful approach: social cohesion grew strongly in a few years time. The role of the Angels slowly changed from guiding to supporting residents. By now, there is a strong team of volunteers, that organises a large number of successful events.

Social design – also called co-creation – is still part of the program around. Design and culture, based on the stories, wishes and people in the neighborhood, highlighting the uniqueness and identity of Drents Dorp. People changed their views and beliefs; of themselves and their talents, but also of their neighborhood and environment. Through social design Drents Dorp was able to make the connection with the developments at Strijp S, R and T. In his own unique and quirky way of course.

Meeting place: the Drents Dorp Headquarter

Space and social get together in the Drents Dorp Headquarter. After signals from 12N residents explored the possibility of a meeting place for the neighborhood. The choice fell quickly on an unusual location: right under the viaduct at the entrance of the district, known locally as the ‘Strijps Bultje. Neighboring designer Piet Hein Eek was commissioned to build the property. Made from recycled materials, the place is bright and cozy and open almost every day. This transformed a gloomy, dark place under the overpass to the vibrant heart of Drents Dorp.

This way of working fits into the line of work of 12N Urban Matters: large effects on the quality of life through minor physical intervention.


The combined approach of physical and social issues in Drenthe Village, has launched a movement that now attracts attention from around the country. Once an area in a downward spiral, the neighborhood now shows how politicized ‘participation’ may look like in practice. Drents Dorp is still that stubborn neighborhood with a raw edge. But pride, full of initiative and caring for each other. 12N Urban Matters, together with partners, designed the building blocks for a future in which residents take matters into their own hands.

Commissioned by: Woonbedrijf
In collaboration with: Moon | and | co
Period: 2012-2015