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28th November, 2018

University competition inspires exhibition on sustainable urban life


Ideas for future urban designs that promote greater sustainability in cities by integrating soil health into our urban lives will be revealed in a new exhibition following a competition organised by the University.

Held in the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia, the Dust to Dust: Redesigning Urban Life in Healthy Soils exhibition will showcase winning proposals from the competition that took place earlier this year. Dust to Dust invited design ideas to engage with the principles of tropical agro-urban design practiced by the ancient Maya in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Objectives include zero hunger, clean water and sanitation, responsible consumption and production, and climate action.

Entries came from across the world and six teams comprising design, engineering, consultancy, and academic professionals, as well as governmental and non-governmental organisations, from both Europe and the Americas were selected to take part in a charrette (an intensive design workshop) at The Prince’s Foundation in London to prepare the exhibits.

Among the innovative solutions that will be displayed at the exhibition is a proposal to introduce architecturally sustainable community centres into small Amazonian settlements to alleviate the problems caused by further urban migration into Brazilian shanty towns, known as favelas. The centres will help to make Amazonian communities socio-economically viable, transforming their way of life by adapting ancient agroforestry practices.

The competition was announced by an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded international research network of urbanists, environmental scientists, and archaeologists, directed by Dr Benjamin Vis from the University of Kent. He works on Maya urban landscapes as a Research Fellow in Digital Humanities and Digital Heritage for the Eastern Academic Research Consortium (Eastern ARC). The resulting exhibition is co-curated by Dr Vis, Dan Evans at Lancaster University, Christian Isendahl, (University of Gothenburg), and Elizabeth Graham, (UCL).

Dr Vis, an expert in urban geography in the Classical & Archaeological Studiesdepartment in the School of European Culture and Languages (SECL), said: ‘This exhibition goes beyond simply learning from the past. It is fantastic to see how cross-disciplinary engagement with the archaeology of tropical Maya cities has highlighted a relationship between soil health and urban life that can be translated into sustainable improvements through contemporary urban design.

The exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia, Norfolk Road, Norwich NR4 7TJ, opens on Friday 30 November and continues to Sunday 17 February 2019. Admission is free.

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