Presenting DESIRE: Executive summary

Presenting: an overview of strategic and operational affordances of the DESIRE project.



Designing anIrresistible Circular Society (DESIRE) aims to create an alternative way forward for the built environment supporting the EU Horizon Europe mission of‘100 climate-neutral and smart cities’. Against seemingly insurmountable challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, and resource depletion we need to rethink our approach to finding solutions. Departing from architecture, design and art we will create an open learning environment with principles, methods and guidelines to support us in designing an irresistible circular society. We will present a DESIRE lighthouse demonstrator, built on insights and learnings from on-sitedemonstration activities taking place on sites in Denmark, Italy, Latvia,Slovenia, and The Netherlands, encompassing various themes and scales. By this, we will set the foundation for a school of thought and practice, and establish a scaling framework for widespread learning across the EU utilizing digital infrastructure, stakeholder involvement and empowerment across a partner community of European cities, youth organizations, NGOs, academia etc.


To this end, DESIRE approaches Mission oriented innovation and stipulates bold, clear, targeted and timely targets for long-term societal impact. Connecting explicitly to the EU-mission for ‘100 Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities’, we have built our portfolioapproach and governance model to underpin mission-oriented innovation. The mission concept unfolds across the entire project aiming to:

●   set an ambitious common direction towards the DESIRE vision

●   continue the mobilization of an evolving ecosystem of actors nationally, across the EU-wide project partnership, across Europe, and globally

●   take a portfolio approach to the concrete sites involved; building out from the first three sites to the wider set of five sites across the consortium, to scaling them through processes of market shaping and scaling

●   provide the infrastructure to make new connections, enabling “topic partnerships” across sectors and disciplines, building and sharing of competencies and empowering collective learning

●   “crowding in” financial resources from multiple actors across state, civic and private sectors to invest in the scaling of the project.


Approach and methods

The following three themes have informed the choice of sites and partners:

1)  ‘Creating social and inclusive housing’ addresses the need for inclusive processes ‘the power of we’, in the circular transformation of social housing.

2) ‘Reconciling cities with nature’ is about designing livable habitats and functional ecosystems from a multispecies perspective while rebalancing ‘land use’ to accommodate resource generation and biodiversity.

3) ‘Transforming through symbiotic relationships’ focuses on how to optimize use of materials flow whenrethinking urban landscapes in cities.

 In depth on-site demonstration activities will unfold in three Danish sites (an old asphalt factory in Herlev, a social housing neighborhood in Taastrup, and an urbantransformation project in Kalundborg) and contribute to similar demonstration activities in Amsterdam, Ljubljana, Milan, Riga and Turin.  Through an international consortium, the project brings together 24 partners from six different European countries. The consortium forms a differentiator for the implementation of the project and the unfolding of learnings across sites. Each site is represented by an organization, a local authority or a company who play a key role in realizing the transformation potentials together with the local coordinator.  Furthermore we have a condensed team of experts who contribute with specific capabilities and competencies when developing the principles of the DESIRE LightHouse Demonstrator.

To meet overarching missions, the project utilizes a range of methodological approaches relevant to the particular territorial and cultural context in question. Meanwhile the project will document, codify and share methods that are scalable and applicable in other contexts. Methods include 1) territorial, site specific, interventions 2) Co-creative experimentation and 3) Scenarios and speculative design.

Outcomes and Impact

By the end of the two-year pilot period, DESIRE will have established and expanded a consortium of territorial organizations, coordinating organizations, facilitating organizations and experts which in total make up a new ecosystem for urban transformational change. The project will enrich cities, communities of citizens and policymakers with state-of the art transformative methodologies that will boost aesthetic, inclusive and sustainable large scale urban transformation.


This will serve as a foundation for scaling and disseminating solutions, methodologies and learnings with the overall purpose of supporting the EU Horizon Europe mission of creating ‘100 climate-neutral and smart cities.