Doughnut Cities within a History of Urban Design

Recording of a partipatory webinar on the past, present, and future of circular models in urban design.

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"We invite every visionary 21st century city to ask itself this question: How can your city become a home to thriving people in a thriving place while respecting the wellbeing of all people and the health of the whole planet?" - Kate Raworth, 2020

Doughnut Economics and the Doughnut City occupy a prominent position within discussions about the future of urban design. The Doughnut, conceived as a global ‘compass’ for human and planetary thriving, proposes ‘a safe and just space for humanity’ where the needs of all are met whilst respecting planetary boundaries.

This concept has been framed as a significant departure from the history of economic thinking, which has long prized GDP as a measure of richness, progress, and wellbeing whilst producing inequality and environmental damage. Also, visually, the Doughnut deviates from mainstream representations of economic ‘laws’ as linear diagrams, offering the circle as a more dynamic and organic image.

We suggest that the image of the circle must be understood in the context of another history: the history of ideal city design. There is a Western tradition of thinking about how an ideal city should be built. From Renaissance interpretations of Vitruvius’ De architectura to Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City, goals like justice and health have long been pursued in the form of abstract, circular solutions.

Many of these circular schemes have sought to rationally control the built environment, and have been implemented to negative effect following colonial logics. Is the Doughnut a part of this tradition and its politics? Can this historic context help to clarify possible pitfalls and presumptions the Doughnut should avoid? Can it help us to understand why the Doughnut and its visual narrative have been received so well?

Following a critical reflection on the history of circular urban design, the recording features a guided and open space for discussion between historians, urban planners, and renegade economists who explore the intersections between doughnut cities, circular models, and planning justice.

Link to the webinar recording on youtube: 

Organizers: Sofia Greaves (PROSPERA, University of Vigo), Patrick Léon Gross (Donut Berlin & Erasmus University Rotterdam) & Luciana Maia (futURbanos)

Sofia works for the PROSPERA project (European Research Council), researching the forms of organisation and innovation needed to create a future no longer obsessed with economic growth: one centred on wellbeing. She is interested in urban planning, placemaking, utopia and public health. Sofia completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge studying ideal cities and nineteenth-century urban planning as part of the 'Impact of the Ancient City' Project (ERC). Her future research projects will focus on the redevelopment of vacant buildings, and the use of artistic methods in encouraging experimental, participatory planning.

Léon co-initiated Donut Berlin as a think-and-do tank in the spirit of collaborative urban activism. He studied earth system science, philosophy, and economics in Europe and the US, always curious about the complex ways in which people understand, relate to, and resist planetary breakdown. Grounding his work in principles of care, craft, and creativity, his experience includes roles as an academic, speaker, founder, journalist, lecturer, consultant, and community organizer. As a Deloitte and SAP SE fellow, he currently holds a position as a visiting fellow at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam, where he researches urban sustainability transitions beyond capitalism.

Luciana  has her head, hands and heart at futURbanos. She is an Environmentalist & urbanist by passion, consultant, facilitator & researcher by profession and engineer by formation, Luciana is a dreamer, world citizen and life-long learner. Working with development / international cooperation for the past 15 years, she is currently involved in enabling urban stakeholders to implement global agendas locally. Experienced project manager, trainer & amp; networker, Luciana has been engaging mainly with government and research organizations, but also with NGOs and associations in Germany as well as in the global south, with experiences in India, China, Ghana and Brazil, amongst others.

Panelists: Dr. Leonora Grcheva (DEAL) & Prof. Simon Goldhill (University of Cambridge)

Leonora is an urban planner, researcher and participation practitioner. She is the cities and regions lead at DEAL and has over a decade of experience facilitating engagement with communities, cities and regions globally through her work as an urban planning consultant for UN-Habitat, a city leadership associate for University College London, and a community engagement consultant for built environment projects in the UK. She has worked on urban plans and policies in Ghana, Somalia, South Africa, Myanmar, and Kenya. 

Simon is professor of Greek at the University of Cambridge, Fellow at King’s College and Foreign Secretary and Vice-President of the British Academy. He has recently worked with a team of urbanists to publish the edited volume ‘Being Urban: Community, Conflict and Belonging in the Middle East, an exploration of the mean ing of the urban condition, which discusses amongst other things what it means to be 'a good city’, how a city can be systematically planned and yet maintain a possibility of flexibility, change, and the wellbeing of citizens, how a city represents itself to itself, and the relationship between the infrastructure of the city and the political process.
Gift Economy: If you liked our event and have the means to support our non-profit work, please consider a donation. To host so many people, we even have had to pay to upgrade our Zoom account! The link below directs you to PayPal. A gift of any amount helps: 





    Odin Roll-Hansen

    Norway, Asker, Brønnøya, Bregneveien

    I wish to be part of a group working for a better future

    Alex Bernat

    Louisville, Colorado, United States of America

    I seek to share tools, to meet new allies and mentors, to inspire hope, and to cultivate my work as a systemic change-maker.

    Robert McGinnis

    Tampa, FL, Tampa, Florida, United States of America

    I am interested in introducing Finance students to Doughnut economics

    Thomas Edwards

    Bournemouth, England, United Kingdom

    I have a passion for municipal infrastructure and the role local authorities hold in getting us inside the Doughnut!


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