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Platforms for sustainable cities and regions

16 - 19 January 2018

Session 1: Sustainable and Responsive Cities


The session will cultivate a holistic approach to developing and managing sustainable, responsive and intelligent cities that are inclusive, liveable, economically vibrant, environmentally aware and with high life quality. Here we merge current international debate on sustainability, resilience, wellbeing and smart cities to develop a useful approach to the bettering of our cities and neighbourhoods. We will discuss opportunities and challenges to meet the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals and to create more resilient cities, and discuss how we can include measures in our plans and building designs to enhance sustainability. There will be focus on strategic thinking, collaboration, and participation while stressing the need for a women-based approach to understanding city qualities and the  important role of women professionals in city making. We will discuss cases from the UK, Europe and the Gulf Region and how the discussion can inspire local decision and practice.

Sustainable and Responsive Cities

Session 2: Wellbeing in the City - Wellbeing, Health and Happiness


This session will inform and inspire better ways to envision, develop and manage public infrastructure for the wellness of people in cities. It will bring a new focus on people and their quality of life in today’s and tomorrow’s cities through wellbeing principles and best practices. Health, the quality of public spaces and the role of architecture in encouraging happiness are emphasised as essential measures for wellbeing in our cities and should therefore be important elements of strategic thinking and urban development actions. We will as well explore qualities relating to islamic architecture in relation to our wellbeing.

Wellbeing in the City

Session 3: Resilience


Improving resilience is essential to sustainability. Here we will reflect on significant strengths in our communities to elaborate on, and concrete risks/threats to manage. Risks can either be community related issues, climate change or natural disasters. While Session1 presents the Resilience concept, this session will target improving resilience related to selected types of challenges, for example preserving identity, the impacts of climate change and cities’ lacking inclusiveness and connectedness. We will discuss case-studies while focusing on the importance of multi scale strategies and collaboration among different public and private actors, society organisations and individuals.

Jeddah Al-Balad

Jeddah Al-Balad. Photo credit:

Session 4: Responsive Architecture


Generally speaking, major decisions concerning our cities take place as a result of a trade off between different political, economic and social interests. Lack of aware projects on the ground can result in unused potentials and inequalities. Architects and urban designers must have an important role in influencing development and look at their own works as catalysts of change and as leaders of sustainability and innovation at all levels. The session, which will take place at University of Westminster will shed light on how architects and planners negotiate context based on understanding of potentials and challenges and how inspiration from other experiences can prompt surprising new ideas.

Responsive Architecture

Session 5: Plans and Goals


This session will focus on how cities negotiate concrete challenges and set priorities while having sustainability as a goal. Presentation of the work on London Plan will give a valuable insight and inspiration to the participants and provide a starting point to discuss potentials, strengths and challenges facing Saudi cities and how to set priorities in this context. We will explore how Jeddah is setting priorities and planning goals and reflect on the implication of local settings and good ways for planning and managing cities.

Plans and Goals

Contact Info

United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi

+971 (50) 4446976

Anchor 1

Session 6: Community Involvement


Scholars and practitioners agree that community involvement should be an essential  component of conceiving our buildings and spaces and planning our cities in view of  more qualities and a sustainable future. Through reflection on cases from the UK and Saudi Arabia we will explore how urban activism and NGOs’ involvement can be catalysts of change, and the benefits of community involvement through both the formal planning process and activist actions. We will also discuss planning frameworks and new methods for strengthening community participation and its impacts. The importance of women and youth involvement for shaping places and in city development will be emphasised.

Community Involvement

Session 8: Culture - Heritage and City


Through a guided visit to Oxford City, dialogue with Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and guided visits to its building (by architect Abdel Wahed Al-Wakeel) and to the Middle East Centre (by architect Zaha Hadid) we will discuss the relationship between architecture, culture and heritage and how much heritage means to cities, people and sustainability of communities. At the same time, we will explore the role of architectural interpretation and how a profound understanding of Islamic Architecture and Plan can relaunch an innovative model of sustainability. This is in prolongation of our discussion in session 2. 

Culture - Heritage and City

Session 7 and Session 9: Education, Profession and Network 


In these sessions we will highlight the importance of building strong and informed professional networks through different strategies: 1) strengthening and targeting education, 2) bridging gaps between practice and education, and 3) working for a strong professional organisation and women network. The sessions elaborate on a visit to Oxford Brookes University to discus the role of education and on meeting the Former President of RIBA, as well as on a group work on the relationship between education and practice to meet city challenges and a competitive professional market. 

Education, Profession and Network

Middle East Centre

Photo credit: Iqbal Aalam

Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies

Photo credit:

Sponsors: AECOM & British Council

Thanks to our knowledge collaborators:

Thanks to our sponsors:

Lab Day Sponsor

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