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The Circular City: Towards a Sustainable Urban Ecosystem

Learn how to connect urban material, water, and energy flows to build a truly sustainable city. This three-week summer programme is developed in collaboration with Metabolic, a consulting and venture building company that uses systems thinking to tackle major sustainability challenges. Due to their environmental impact, cities play a crucial role in the transition towards sustainable societies. Despite the fact that they occupy only 3% of the global terrestrial surface, cities house more than half of the world’s population, consume 7% of its natural resources, and are directly and indirectly responsible for 60 to 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions (UNEP, 2012). The urban environment thus acts as a nexus of material flows and nodes for energy, water, consumption and production. Cities are key leverage points that demand our focus if we are to accelerate the necessary transition to circular and sustainable systems, both locally and globally.

  • Tuition, dates, and deadlines
    Mode of instruction: On-campus (3 weeks) 
    Academic dates: Sunday 10 July - Thursday 28 July 2022*
    Housing dates:  Friday 8 July - Friday 29 July 2022*
    Academic fees: €1650* read more about what is included in the fees.
    Housing fees:  €550-600* and a €75 refundable deposit. Housing is optional. Read more about university-organised accomodation
    Credits: 6 European Credits. Read more about credits and credit transfer.  
    Early admissions deadline: Tuesday 1 February 2022. Applications are processed throughout the year on a rolling basis. 
    Regular admissions deadline: Friday 1 April 2022
    Who is this programme for?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Students should be in good academic standing to participate in the summer school. For current university students (upper-year Bachelors and Masters) in the arts and social sciences with an interest and background in urban studies, earth sciences, and sustainability (and other related fields). Also open for working professionals with a desire to continue their education in this field.

    *Dates and prices are tentative and will be finalised by 1 December.

  • Programme description

    In this three-week summer programme, students are taught how to leverage the potential of cities via a new paradigm for urban planning and design: urban metabolism. While this concept has been around for over 50 years, recent interest in it has rejuvenated the fields of urban studies, industrial ecology, and architecture. Urban metabolism can be defined as the sum total of the technical and socio-economic processes that occur in cities, resulting in growth, and production of energy, materials, and waste. The city is viewed by its ‘material flows’, generally defined into water, energy, materials (including food), and waste. These flows consist of inputs (local, regional, and global inflow of resources), throughputs (energy required to transform these resources and waste produced by any process), and outputs (the material outcome of this process).  

    This interdisciplinary course unravels the complexity behind  truly sustainable urban development. The first week of the course will unravel the academic and theoretical perspectives behind sustainability approaches, the second week will dive into methods and tools for a more hands-on approach, and in the final week, participants will perform their own material flow analysis of a given neighbourhood in Amsterdam. Through studying examples from Amsterdam and by sharing best practices and key challenges from their home contexts, participants will learn about several aspects of urban resilience from ecological, economic, and cultural perspectives.  

    Through the use of different tools, scientific methods and analysis, students will experience experimental urban design both theoretically, and gain an introduction to innovative tools and methods, able to apply their knowledge learned in a wide variety of settings. 

  • Academic directors

    Dr. Nadina Galle is an award-winning ecological engineer and entrepreneur dedicated to applying emerging technologies to improve the health of urban ecosystems for future generations of city dwellers, something she calls the "Internet of Nature” (IoN). Nadina specializes in the translation of scientific discovery into public knowledge. She works with urban ecologists and planners on applying today’s technology, so they can make better decisions to secure a greener urban future for all. Her award-winning Ph.D. research in ecological engineering, the design of ecosystems for the mutual benefit of humans and nature, uses soil sensing and remote sensing technologies in an attempt to track the city’s underground communication network of microbes that connect trees. Nadina co-founded Green City Watch, an open-source geoAI collective, and led the development of an urban tree-detecting algorithm. The work has been recognized by the World Bank, Maxar Technologies, Planet, and in 2019, was awarded two Space Oscars by the European Space Agency. 

    Gerard Roemers (MSc) is a senior consultant and Cities Team Lead at Metabolic. From this position he is, amongst other things, involved in collaborations with several universities and research institutes in the Netherlands such as the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS). Gerard received a Bachelor’s degree in Geography and Spatial Planning at the University of Groningen, and a Master’s degree in Environmental Sciences and Sustainable Development from the University of Utrecht. His work focuses on the interface between these two disciplines and is aimed at discovering the leverage points through which the material- water- and energy cycles in regions and cities can be closed. In other words, in finding out how the ideal of a circular city or region can be achieved, through novel planning and design processes, policies, and innovations.

  • Explore our community

    Want to get to know more about studying in Amsterdam? Follow us on social media and join our summer community. Get a feel for our summer school vibe and our academic and social community, and learn about studying with us through the eyes of past summer school students. 

    Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn | Twitter

    Looking for an alumni perspective? Read this interview with Piotr Barzack, who attended The Circular City in summer 2018. 

Facts & Figures
Mode Short-term
Credits 6 ECTS, 3 weeks
Language of instruction English
Conditions for admission Open
Starts in July