What is circular urban planning and could it help us reinvent the city?

  • Living
  • Thursday, 10 Mar 2022

Circular urban planning is an alternative to urban sprawl and an approach that looks to use the many existing resources. Photo: AFP

In the face of urban sprawl, French urban planner Sylvain Grisot has outlined alternatives to how cities tend to develop, get built up and how space is used in them.

He calls this alternative approach "circular urban planning". Rather than a scientific theory, it's a collection of best practices that enables us to think differently about cities and their uses.

Grisot, founder of the Dixit.net agency, has written a book about it entitled Manifeste pour un urbanisme circulaire, published by Editions Apogée.

The urban planner advocates fighting against urban sprawl by "recycling" or "repurposing" built-up areas or transforming existing assets in the city. Through the idea of "building the city onto itself", the urban planner proposes various solutions that can be adapted to today's lifestyles and usages.

In line with the circular economy, circular urban planning is an alternative to urban sprawl. It's a venture that looks to use the many unused resources.

To this end, Grisot proposes five axes of reflection to make the city circular, which he suggests classifying according to the following order.


This refers to looking to ways to avoid construction and to multiply usage scenarios. Housing homeless people in unused offices at night or allowing associations to use schools on weekends are solutions that are about "intensifying".


This refers to allowing buildings to be reused so that they meet new needs and can be adapted for new uses. It's a way of avoiding using new materials and energy that conventionally goes in demolishing and rebuilding.


This means building on available spaces without participating in urban sprawl.


Recycling looks to break down spaces to either return them to land use or usher in a new phase of urbanisation.

Natural use

This is about leaving natural spaces for their basic use in their natural state, for instance allowing access to greenery or agriculture. – AFP Relaxnews

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