With my colleague Peter Kraftl, we recently hosted the first workshop of the “Re-inhabiting the City: Bringing new life to city centres of emerging economies in a changing climate” project (31 Jan – 2 Feb). This interdisciplinary project, gathering architects, urban designers/planners and urban geographers, funded by the EPSRC/FAPESP, is led by Dr Lucelia Rodrigues (University of Nottingham) and Dr Joana Soares Gonçalves (University of Sao Paulo). It connects directly with my interests towards temporary urbanism as it questions the re-use/re-design of vacant spaces in Sao Paulo's vacant urban core.
The team spent the first two days deconstructing individuals’ understandings of the challenges undergone by central urban spaces and related methods used to conduct research in those fields. Drawing upon this, we revisited the bid and agreed on tasks and outputs. Discussions also led to identifying the set of case studies which will be used in Sao Paulo to conduct in-depth research and data collection. On the third day, the team headed to London to explore a range of initiatives, temporary and more permanent, aiming to bring new life to changing spaces and neighbourhoods. This included visiting temporary projects in Loughborough Junction led by Meanwhile Space Enterprise, meeting with the delivery lead of Pop Brixton, meeting with the place shaping manager of Team London Bridge, visiting Shoreditch and finally heading to Future Cities Catapult for an end of the day meeting and wrap-up.
The UK team will be off to Brazil in May and I am looking forward to being in the field and querying those spaces in need for transformation!
I am copying below what my colleagues (Francis Pope (PI of this project) and Rhiannon Blake) have written for our School bulletin as per the first inception workshop we hosted a couple of weeks ago in Birmingham .It was a fantastic opportunity to meet with our project partners and move forward with this fascinating project.
At the end of January, the ‘A Systems Approach to Air Pollution (ASAP) – East Africa’ (www.asap-eastafrica.com) UK team hosted a conference at the University of Birmingham, as the first workshop of the major international research project looking at how rapid urbanisation in three African cities - Addis Ababa, Kampala and Nairobi impacts upon air quality. ASAP members from GEES include Francis Pope (PI), Lauren Andres, Ajit Singh and Rhiannon Blake.
Delegates that attended included scientists from our three study countries; Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda, but also from many different institutions such as the University of Nairobi, African Centre for Technology Studies, Uganda National Roads Authority and the Ethiopian Public Health Institute to a name a few.
The beginning of the workshop was structured around the inception phase of the ASAP-East Africa project, with discussions of work planning, ideas for stakeholder engagement and understanding different perceptions of what the pressing issue of air quality looks like for East Africa. As well as cementing the strong bonds the UK team has with our international partners, relationships were formed across the different countries which is vital for strengthening our research across the interdisciplinary, multinational project.
The ASAP-East Africa consortium were then joined by a group of leading experts in the field to discuss possible scenarios for Nairobi’s air pollution in the year 2030. We had delegates from the UN, the African Development Bank, the Overseas Development Institute as well as academics from within our University, Professor Roy Harrison and Professor Nic Cheeseman to engage in this session, chaired by Professor Tim Softley, University of Birmingham Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Transfer.
The outcomes of the high level workshop were very positive, identifying major themes such as how new technologies such as electric cars can reduce air pollution emissions, the benefit of conveying positive messages of air pollution reduction to engage both the public and governments and the importance of tailoring our research to each city to ensure the most impact.