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

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

Smart City Luhansk & Donetsk

Luhansk and Donetsk region_Smart city development in Eastern Ukrainian cities

15 cities and villages close to the war border in Eastern Ukraine. Perhaps, not the most logical place for technological urban development. Or maybe, it is?

Here’s an example: a regional main water pipe that passes through the occupied war zone is a source of conflict. How much water is used in the occupied area, and how is it paid for? Simple IT equipment along with transparent data, make it possible to measure what the occupants have to pay at the end, as well as the beginning of the water pipeline. Online services or assistance can also improve living conditions for people living next to the war border, no matter how complex their circumstances.

Fulco Treffers worked for VNG International as a strategic advisor on the development of smart city solutions in those cities. Speaking in broad terms, the project had four phases: knowledge development – translation to local situation – choice – cooperation and deepening.

The process had several stages. In the first phase, knowledge from all over the world was shared concerning ICT applications in water purification, public transport, air quality, services and urban design and planning. During the second and the third phase, the fifteen cities involved implemented the acquired knowledge into their own local situation, urgency and prioritization. Through intensive sessions, Fulco Treffers supported the cities in formulating the right questions and prioritization and choices. Each municipality presented multiple issues concerning public transport, youth work, government services and management and maintenance of public space.

In the fourth phase, an in-depth visit was made to a selected number of the cities involved. During those visits, local developments were further investigated and urban planning issues were raised. What can be done with hundreds of hectares of stationary industrial sites? How to deal with the dried up tourist influx in old historic towns? Fulco Treffers gave compact advice to the cities with a form of fast-forward design.

The most memorable moment of this project? During a walk through the center of Ivano-Frankivsk, representatives of the town of Stanica Luhansk suddenly started taking photos of a modern public toilet. These self-cleaning toilets are hygienic and cost little to manage. Why were the photos taken? Stanica Luhansk is where one of the three heavily guarded border crossings from Ukraine to the Occupied Territory and back is located. There, people who have family across the border can cross more or less safely. But because of all the administrative activities and understaffing at this border crossing, people must wait at least four hours before crossing. So, what’s the first thing they need upon their arrival in Ukraine? A clean toilet.

Commissioned by: VNG International and 15 local cities
In collaboration with: Uliana Sydor
Period: summer 2019

This is one of the many examples of research trips 12N Urban Matters has made for Dutch architects and urbanists in Ukraine or for Ukrainian architects and urbanists in The Netherlands.

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

Area Plan, Eindhoven

City area plan Strijp_Urban and intimate living in Strijp

City area Strijp is constructed from old Philips districts, the foundations of Eindhoven. Corporation Woonbedrijf manages more than half of the 6000 houses in Strijp. Woonbedrijf knows a lot of people in the 22 neighborhoods. Sometimes it’s difficult to zoom out to district level. 12N Urban Matters assisted in this process.

Nowhere in The Netherlands you can see so well the influence industrial revolution had on Dutch urban design. Large factory sites and related working-class neighborhoods alternate in Strijp. Here innovative developments, like transformation and compaction, are booming the last years, because of the new residents, like young designers, home working family counselors and mobile consultants. They don’t live and work in the ‘old Philips age’. Time to take a closer look at city district Strijp: what makes Strijp the living, creative, urban, but also rural, historic district that the corporation wants it to be?

The city district plan has two main goals. On the one hand it connects the social and spatial connections in the separate neighborhoods. Secondly the district plan provides insight to the task and the method of the corporation in Strijp as a district. The problems, challenges and main directions should be made clear for all the Woonbedrijf employees, professional parties and community organizations. In a time of a retreating government and big changes in real estate, the corporation has to take a clear position within the collaboration.

Together with the involved parties 12N entered into the search for the future of Strijp. The search led to three main points in the task and the method: managing, developing and connecting. The managing goes beyond the maintaining of the houses. The vision will expand, like offering chances to residents by means of social support.

The developing of, among other things, wasteland and vacant buildings takes place in the neighborhoods where Woonbedrijf has a lot of property. Property that stimulates cooperation with the municipality and other involved parties that have the same goal. Think of Info-centre Drents Dorp, where renovation of the neighborhood takes place at the temporary information center under an overpass.

The connecting brings coherence in the developments that simultaneously take place in Strijp. Considerations can be made in a better way. What to do with vacant buildings, or where to locate a new supermarket, and who actually has a say in such situations? How can the municipal social analysis of the whole of Strijp be linked to Woonbedrijf’s future plans? Such considerations have been made in the new metropolitan area in the Strijp-S neighborhood and in the development of a widely supported social-spatial vision for the future of the neighborhood Lievendaal.

Download the City Area Plan here: districtsplanstrijp

Commissioned by: Woonbedrijf
With the cooperation of: Timo Bralts – Bestwerk, layout en cartography & Dorot Sobczyck – photography
Period: from Februari 2012

Urban acupuncture (Ukr)

Mariupol Magazine, Ukraine_Urban acupuncture starting new perspectives for Mariupol

A country and a city hit by war. A need for new perspectives, despite the war. Cultural platform Izolyatsia from Ukraine invited fifteen architects, artists and designers to consider the opportunities and creative impulses for the city of Mariupol. One of them was Fulco Treffers from 12N.

Treffers spent two months in Mariupol. He talked to many people, experienced the city with the war so close by, but also the daily life and the resilience that goes with it. He made a glossy magazine, in which he described, in an accessible manner, what the current state of affairs in the city was, and the opportunities he thought existed on an urban, social and economic level.

In doing so, he looked both at the short and long term. In the short term, Treffers advocated urban acupuncture interventions: fast, small-scale local interventions that facilitate meeting, and thus have an added impact on the entire city. For the long term, he researched sustainable economic development: from the steel industry alone to a varied economic infrastructure. He views urban acupuncture as an engine for powering new energy, growth and change.

Download Mariupolmagazine ENG
Download Mariupol Magazine 2015 _ RU/UKR

Commissioned by: Izolyatsia, Kiev Ukraine –
Period: July – August 2015

Social design, Eindhoven

Sonseweg_Linking social and spatial characteristics

The backdrop: a northern suburb of Eindhoven consisting of 120 very small houses – just about as small as they come in urban social housing. An organically grown neighborhood with an eclectic mix of people, all of whom are slightly scarred by life and ended up in the neighbourhood simply because they had nowhere else to go.

Lots of changes have been made in the area recently. Five years ago, problems were on the rise, but after effective and sharp intervention, the corporation reinstalled peace and quiet. A coffee-corner, where residents meet field professionals, works incredibly well. One might conclude: much achieved, end of story. But the corporation was curious for more.

The public space surrounding the dwellings lacks clear structure and clear separation between public and private areas. The connection with the adjacent park is dodgy and undefined. Should something change, according to the residents? And if so, how? The group of residents is so diverse and yet so specific that it is hard to define their needs and wishes.

A typical challenge for 12N Urban Matters: investigating the relationship between spatial and social characteristics in the area. Commissioned by 12N, Mildred Montpellier (social and medical anthropology) and Wessel Dragt (spatial analysis) set to work.

The project was implemented in four phases. Firstly, needs and wishes of residents were defined through interviews and open discussion. Parallel, analysis of the spatial environment took place. Based on the results, four scenarios for the public space were developed. These scenarios were presented to the residents during a fun-filled activity in the park. Taking residents response and opinions into account, a final proposal for the outdoor area was presented.

The chosen approach presented an additional challenge. In parallel to all open conversations with the residents, background calculations were needed all the time: to what extent should the ambitions be tempered or stimulated? Design drawings and Excel sheets went hand in hand. Several residents also provided help, in form of pruning and clearing actions. The result is a safe, pleasant outdoor space, maintained by the neighborhood.

Commissioned by: Woonbedrijf, district Woensel-Noord
In collaboration with: Wessel Dragt and Mildred Monpellier
Period: January – June 2012