The Upcycle Mall: from design to operation

The background

The Municipality of Rotterdam’s City Management (Stadsbeheer) cluster is making preparations to realize the Upcycle Mall: a new circular hotspot in the city, where the reuse and upcycling of materials is central. The intention is to open the Upcycle Mall in the first half of 2024.


The Municipality of Rotterdam is aiming for a two-part goal with the Upcycle Mall:

  1. To stimulate circular awareness and behavior among Rotterdammers, and thereby reduce the environmental impact of large household waste;
  2. To stimulate circular craftsmanship by means of education, and thereby produce the circular creators of the future.

The question

We have been asked to give advice on:

  • The feasibility of the concept of the Upcycle Mall, which raw materials can best be upcycled;
  • How the design of the Upcycle Mall can best connect with the wishes of local circular entrepreneurs; and
  • What the operating model for the Upcycle Mall looks like, and what impact that will have for the Municipality.

Current situation and future

The Upcycle Mall will be a place where circular artisans and educators can work with materials from the affiliated environmental park. In doing this, they will be able to show Rotterdammers that circularity is fun, beautiful, useful and important.

The process

In order to advise the Municipality, we carried out research to gather input, including:

  • An exploration of the upgrade of raw materials, based on the literature and discussions with market parties;
  • Three Round Table sessions with circular entrepreneurs about the design;
  • Exploratory bilateral conversations about the operation with market parties (in Rotterdam);
  • An exploration of the market in which further discussions were held with different parties about the organizational and financial conditions required to make the Upcycle Mall operative; and
  • Coordination sessions with a core team of stakeholders within the Municipality

The results

We split the process for developing our advice into three parts: feasibility, design and form of operation.

  • Feasibility. The research highlighted a number of factors that are crucial for the Upcycle Mall to succeed. For example, for raw materials to be useable, there must be a good triage (pre-separation) process, the Upcycle Mall should function as a hotspot where people (both circular artisans and residents) want to come – different to a traditional environmental park – and it would be highly valuable to develop the design in collaboration with potential users of the Upcycle Mall.
  • Design. The first phase brought forth the wish to discuss with local circular entrepreneurs how the Upcycle Mall can achieve its maximum potential. The Round Table sessions produced a series of recommendations, which will be included in the final design.
  • Form of operation. We defined five roles with different responsibilities for the operation of the Upcycle Mall: the Operator, the Host, the Social Employer, the Administrator of Non-Municipal Functions and the Educational Programmer. Our research led to three operation scenarios, in which we distinguish the five roles:
  • Scenario 1 in which the Municipality of Rotterdam itself fulfils the role of Operator of the Upcycle Mall;
  • Scenario 2 in which one of the market parties takes on the role of Operator;
  • Scenario 3 in which a consortium of market parties fulfils the different roles.

The process has led to advice on which the Municipality can base its decisions around which mode of operation, tender procedure and financial conditions they will use for the Upcycle Mall. In addition, throughout the process, we had discussions with various education and market parties in Rotterdam. This has resulted in a clearer picture of the possibilities of participating, from the perspectives of the market and Rotterdam’s educational institutions.

Our advice has led to a tender for the operation.

“Cécile, Eline, Marijn, Stefan and Jeroen understand the circularity of the waste streams, the figures and forms of tender. The collaboration was very pleasant and dynamic, and the working sessions they led were energetic and accessible. The result is a clear report and advice, which we can use as a basis for making decisions. Many thanks for the nice collaboration!” Marloes Nooijens Upcycle Mall Project Manager

Similar projects

Want to learn more about our projects? Email us.