Saisons Zéro in the Poor Clares Monastery, Roubaix

Heir to three founding concepts – zero waste, frugality and reuse – the Maison POC Circular Economy, installed in the former Monastery in Roubaix will focus primarily on enhancing the value of the POCs of the territory.

Thought as a catalyst for positive practices, the Maison POC Circular Economy will ensure to value the right questions rather than the answers, the whys and the how more than the expected results. Some 60 projects of POC from the metropole and elsewhere – presented as systems experimentation, with an emphasis on citizen participation and co-design – will dialogue with temporary installations made by international designer

The Maison POC works like a bridge between the local ecosystem, the neighbourhood, the city, the metropolis and international propositions, dealing with important themes : modes of production in short supply chain and with low energy impact, responsible and thrifty consumption, use of environmentally friendly materials (renewable resources, bio-based materials), waste management and reuse.

As a living and evolving laboratory open to everyone, the Maison POC will be built step by step thanks to the active participation of project stakeholders and the public. In this spirit of transmission and under the pretext of a temporary scenography, certain areas of the Monastery will be rehabilitated and provided with modular reusable structures. Thus, the Maison POC Circular Economy will show how to make a space for events sustainable, accessible and eco-responsible. The rehabilitation of the Monastery is a project initiated and supported by the City of Roubaix. Transitional occupation of the Monastery – entitled “Seasons Zero” – is provided by the collective of architects Zerm in cooperation with the Association Yes We Camp, the historian Gilles Maury and the company ICAR.

The poor Clares Monastry ©Zerm


(…) things are no longer “made” or “fabricated”, but rather carefully “designed”, and if I may use the term, precautionarily designed.

Bruno Latour “A Cautious Prometheus? A Few Steps towards a Philosophy of Design”: conference as part of Networks of Design – Design History Society, Falmouth, Cornwall, 2008

The design world is mobilizing to deal with the emergence of COVID-19. Will the transition movement born to fight the climate crisis survive the virus? Can the health emergency be considered as one of the consequences of the global economic system? Everything is dramatically connected. What is the role of design in the face of this crisis: to act in an emergency or in prevention? Are its interlocutors the industries, the health system, or the territory, the districts, the citizens and the associations? The Maison POC Circular economy – the expression of a happy link between design and local communities – shows new values and real responses to current policies. POCs are all the result of a cry of alarm concerning both the health of the planet and that of the system: the environmental and climate crisis, the exploitation of exhaustible resources, economic policies, waste, planned obsolescence and overconsumption.

Today, more than ever, our role is to transform “social distancing” into cohesion, to seek collaboration and develop a collective vision in the name of a precautionary design advocated by the philosopher Bruno Latour.

While a failing system confines us indoor, we, the inhabitants of the Maisons POC, use design to rebuild a healthy, participatory and above all open ecosystem. Curiously, “economy”, from the Greek οἰκονομία / oikonomía, etymologically designates “the administration of the house” (from oikos, house, and nomos, to manage, to administer). The circular economy means redesigning the economy, governance and citizen participation, our rituals and our behaviors. In short: design must regenerate.


The visual that comes with the Maison POC Circular Economy – is inspired by the Moebius ribbon, a powerful and universal symbol of recycling. The multitude and the whirlwind movement of these arrows is a stance on unidirectional circular policies, still very much linked to old systems of management of the economy and waste. If the transition must be a global movement of society, the best solutions to find this dynamic are those of short circuits, adapted to the nature and to the cultural and social fabric of a defined territory. The arrow is a strong indicator that forces us to move in one direction or another. A multitude of arrows in a seemingly chaotic order and of different dimensions form a hymn to the complexity of nature and the non-linearity of our solutions. It is a common dynamic, a movement of the commons that recognizes the diversity of actors within it. The arrow here is no longer a symbol of direction, but of meaning.


The circular economy represents a good starting point to investigate the design world now. It suggests a change of attitude stemming from a collective transition on the global level, and it includes production models, resources, consumption, employment, education and ethical behavior, as well as radical reorientation of public policies and the economy.

Design – with its ability to simultaneously look at the past and to the future – plays a crucial role in this transition. Design valorizes know-how and tradition and harnesses experimentation and research to look towards the future and create innovation: it encourages new systems of production, management and consumerism that adhere to the principles of sustainable development. Its goal is to redirect “easy” solutions and dissuade any generic rhetoric that could drag us into the pitfalls of speculation disguised as good intentions.

Design is like a negociating table, capable of bringing together the most divergent opinions and subjects, thoughts and actions, and building new strategies as open and fluid systems.

Despite playing the role of mediator, design is never neutral. On the contrary, it is deeply political, anchored in the social fabric of a region and focused on the common good. Design is never the result of a linear path or a specific and unbending law: the process is a continuous inquiry which relies on adaptability to various terrain and unstable conditions, to realign an approach and to always question the meaning of our arrow.


The Maison POC Circular Economy wishes above all to be an example of how to make an event space sustainable, accessible and eco-responsible. A living, evolving laboratory open to all, the Maison POC will be built up as it goes through the active participation of project leaders and the public.

The set of proposals hosted here draws on a vast literature, from Walter R. Stahel to Michael Braungart and William McDonough, to name but a few. About 40 years after the publication of The Product Life Factor and 20 years after the first edition of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, faced with the climate changes of recent years, energy transition policies have started to negotiate common strategies. But what is reassuring in relation to the slowness of the metabolism of the global system is the highly pragmatic and concrete side of all these local micro-projects, the expression of undertaking it together, which are born every day in all corners of the world, and in particular in Lille Metropole. It is this deeply human, collaborative and ecological energy that allows design to regain its reason of being, its autonomy and its ability to catalyze and accelerate change.

What Maison POC will try to show, document, develop and discuss throughout the three months of its opening are the issues implicit in the circular economy. To what extent can design contribute to an evolution that is well anchored in the territory, collaborative and sustainable? It will ensure that the right questions are raised and valued more than the right answers, the why and the how rather than the expected results. Because the issues of zero waste, energy transition, recycling and reuse are still a question that has not come full circle, a real challenge that is confronted with a culture, behaviours, standards and predominant systems that continue to prevail and represent an obstacle to transformation.

Experiments aroud the brick, ©Anna Saint-Pierre


Located in the former Poor Clares Sisters School, the Maison POC Circular Economy is part of the Roubaix movement embracing zero waste and a circular economy and it also builds on the legacy of frugality and reuse that houses Saisons Zéro.

Built at the end of the 19th century, this complex was home to the Poor Clares Sisters for several decades. The sisters held mass, managed a wafer factory, carried out activities such as outreach, support, teaching, cultivated a vegetable garden, etc., all according to a frugal way of life, governed by the economy of collective means. Today the convent is listed as a historical monument.

In 2019, the city launched a call for projects that would be temporarily housed on this site. The Roubaix-based collective Zerm – in partnership with the Yes We Camp association, historian Gilles Maury, and ICAR company – was selected to ensure the revitalization and progressive development of the former convent. The city provides financial support for the work to bring it up to code and participates in the shared governance of the site.


The City of Roubaix has been developing a philosophy of sustainable development and zero waste for 10 years. The city wishes to harness this spirit of cooperation and resilience to accelerate the ecological transition of its region. The former Poor Clares Monastery was chosen to house this initiative.

A true experiment in alternative intervention in a cultural heritage site, this transitional project Saisons Zéro (Zero Seasons) attempts to pragmatically, frugally and straightforwardly investigate how best to meet the essential needs of housing, work, entertainment, and cohabitation on a daily basis. In collaboration with local partners and residents, the project also offers multiple activities, events and a refreshment bar, as well as rental space for associations and entrepreneurs, alternative accommodation, and landscaped gardens.

Thus, the Maison aims to grow genuine citizen participation that would continue after Lille Metropole 2020, World Design Capital. In this spirit of transmission and under the pretext of a temporary setting, certain parts of the convent (the ground floor of the school and the chapel) will be rehabilitated and equipped with modular structures that can be reused afterwards. The footprint that the Maison POC leaves behind will not have any permanent impact; its circular design (so well constructed) will transform with the site’s future use, as a kind of biomimetic alchemy, apparent only in the intentions and actions of those who participate in its construction.


Maison POC is not a showcase of solutions, but a catalyst for good practices and a space for working and learning. The selected local and international projects on display demonstrate a spirit of change and offer transitional lifestyle and production models that generate viable and appropriate solutions.

A visit to the exhibition/laboratory includes multimedia guides (visual, audio, audio-visual, tactile, documentary supports) that will stimulate public participation and allow the visitors to experience this transformation in Fieri: its roots, present-day reality, and future possibilities. The site’s historic architecture marries with this astute rehabilitation all the while fully respecting the resources in terms of materials and activities. The complex is organized into several spaces:

Demonstration – a space that shows objects, products, and experiments from different POCs. These objects represent either the starting or finishing points of this complex process and play a role together in the storyline. This space opens with a large book displaying a combined history in pictures of all the POCs;

  • Exploration – a multimedia zone for consulting documentation related to the development of each POC;
  • Manifesto – a projection room that screens a film which is also a manifesto of the values conveyed in the Maison POC and the room also hosts round tables and workshops for POC participants;
  • Listening – a listening point for an audio account of the circular economy;
  • Inspiration – a space that houses temporary installations produced by international designers;
  • Dialogue – a conference room set-up in the former chapel.
Collectif Faubourg 132, Recyclab, 2013-ongoing ©Faubourg132


Maison houses about sixty projects at different stages of development. Some of them feature short circuit production methods with low energy impact, several advocate responsible and economical consumption, while others encourage the use of ecological materials (renewable resources, bio-based materials) or explore waste reduction through reuse practices.

POCs may range from small to large scale projects and display wide variety of intentions, realities, goals, and means. POCs function as experiments in systems, pay particular attention to citizen participation, co-design, and are based in an entrepreneurial approach rooted in the common good. These projects’ strengths lie in the encounter between individuals and the community; the role of design is to facilitate this dialogue and transform it into the model.

POCs cover a range of sectors: from textiles to furniture, research on new materials to waste management strategies, urban development to new production systems. The advocates include designers, entrepreneurs, industries, universities, municipalities, and cultural associations. The whole ensemble demonstrates the birth of a “peer-to-peer” movement ready to uphold new values and promote new standards, essential for a real political shift towards a circular economy.

POC leaders are encouraged to use the Maison to organize meetings, explain their projects and meet potential partners. At the same time, a planned itinerary leads the public on visits that explore where the ideas behind some of POCs were born: museums, towns, architecture and design agencies, project houses, etc.

For three months, the old school will be transformed into a learning venue open to the public where it will be possible to discover more about:

  • Deconstruction and reuse practices (building materials, recycled materials, recovery of industrial waste and unsold textiles);
  • Urban redevelopment with low environmental impact;
  • Relocation and sustainable production systems;
  • Energy transition systems;
  • Production systems / delivery / distribution short circuit;
  • Urban agriculture systems / permaculture / composting;
  • Regenerative design / renewable natural resources / new materials;
  • Shareable intangible resources (open source design and manufacturing strategies);
  • Human resources (design thinking, co-design, innovation and social inclusion, economy of the common spaces);
  • Policies, standards and legal aspects of reuse and recycling;
  • Tools for promoting the circular economy.


Maison functions as a bridge between the local ecosystem, the neighborhood, the city, the Metropolis and the international community. Throughout the event, international designers will punctuate time and space with installations demonstrating their approaches. The POCs are rooted in regional realities and like real statements, these installations support the POCs by broadening perspectives, raising new questions, or creating platforms that welcome and grow this network of collaboration.

The work and research carried out by these guests will leave its mark: the city, the Convent and Saisons Zéro, will benefit from structural elements, such as the rehabilitation of the Chapel by Rotor; a study developed by Eugenia Morpurgo on syntropic materials based on the concept of a multicultural ecosystem that could be germane to the cloister garden; an in situ demonstration of how open source can transform design into an open, adaptable and inclusive process thanks to the OpenStructures platform (Thomas Lommée and Christiane Högner), who also participated in the construction of the scenographic elements; prospective research on the future of flax production in the region by Studio Plastique (Archibald Godts and Theresa Bastek).

The program features conferences, round tables, and workshops organized with POC participants and guest designers. Activities in museums as well as with companies and associations will also be announced. The program agenda will be communicated soon.

A digital catalogue illustrating what the Maison POC has to say, including texts, pictograms and pictures relating to POC participants and guest designers, is available at and on the website from June 2020 onward and will be updated with content produced for the launch of the Maison activities starting with September 2020.

Christophe Guérin, Aluminium crystallography– site Baudelet ©Sébastien Gras
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