Circular cities inspired by the lifecycle of woodants – Concept

Arjan van den Bosch

january 7, 2017

Explanation of the circular diagram “Biomimicry: Circular Cities

Fig : The four W’s of the circular economy of red wood ants (Formica polyctena).

Elements (1)

  • Why= Drive
  • Where= Physical place
  • What = Processes
  • When = Momentum

Elements (2)

  • Drive= the sum of all the individual intrinsic motivations.
  • Physical place= the footprint of all the actions performed by individuals.
  • Processes= the organized actions performed by individuals in order to survive
  • Momentum= engage at the right time and place, release when energy is low

Why: motivation

The need to survive motivates to take actions. This sum of all individual intrinsic motivations empowers the community, making it vital. Processes need to be designed in a way that the intrinsic motivation is encouraged and not overloaded.

When: seasons

We live on the planet earth, so society must adapt to the planet’s habits.

  • Spring: a time of recycling the remains of last year and prepare for production
  • Summer: a time of production and distributing of energy, knowledge and goods
  • Autumn: a time of reduction, saving energy, digesting processes start
  • Winter: a time where optimal use of resources is a necessity

What: processes

  • Repair: after a time of sobriety and live off stock processes need to be repaired. Gaining energy, rebuilt stocks and prepare for the right momentum.
  • Reproduction: when nature provides huge amounts of energy and resources it is the right moment to produce as much as possible, as far as allowed by the environment. In the wood ant’s world this is the time of mating flights and mass growth of the nests.
  • Redesign: loads of individuals and resources are available. Use this period to innovate by exploring new places, design new processes and reconnect places and individuals in old and new ways.
  • Reduction: energy becomes low, the processes need to be slowed down. Reduce energy use, prepare for a time of Built stocks.
  • Recover: when nature reboots, first action is to gain as much energy as possible to able the repair process.

Where: environment

All the actions of the individuals have effect in the physical place, our habitat: earth. These actions leave traces. Like roads, holes, cities etc. You can draw a map of these traces. This map is a reflection of the societies processes and individual actions.

  • Recycle: winter has digested a lot of resources. Now they provide new energy, nutrition and new materials.
  • Consume: The new provided energy, nutrition and materials can be used to (re) built. Take as much as nature can provide, monitor this process to prevent exhaustion
  • Distribute: spread the overload of goods. Spread nutrition’s, food, energy, goods equally over the society so anyone can profit
  • Save: the time of almost unlimited growth is over, so stop producing and distributing. This is a time to save what’s left to maintain primary processes.


Fig top: The steps from circular cities of ants to human cities