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UnBox Future Cities LABS follow on awards announced

Date: 23/07/2014

UN estimates say that by 2050, 70 per cent of the world's population will live in cities; this statistic has been the focus of the UnBox Future Cities LABS. Earlier this year researchers from the UK worked with a team made up of UK and Indian creative practitioners and Indian researchers alongside mentors to explore the theme of 'Future Cities' at the Unbox festival. To follow on from this important work, four teams who have met through the UnBox LABS have the opportunity to sustain, develop and expand creatively upon the collaborations formed.

The new awards are a funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and are part of a broader collaboration between UnBox, British Council, Science & Innovation Network, supported by the REACT Creative Economy Hub and the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India. It is a continuation and adaptation of the fellowship program associated with UnBox, a multi-disciplinary festival in India. The awards include:

Professor Paul Sermon, University of Brighton, 3 x 4: Exploring metaspace platforms for inclusive future cities

  • In megacities such as Delhi and Mumbai - and within one of the fastest growing cities within the world, Ahmedabad - more than 50% of the population live in informal urban settlements, more commonly known as 'slums'. 3 x 4 metres is the plot size often provided in resettlement colonies, a government initiative which relocates people within inner-city settlements to vacant land on the periphery. In collaboration with Dr Claire McAndrew at The Bartlett, UCL and Swati Janu, a Delhi-based Architect, this project looks at informal settlements differently, where informality is not viewed as a problem but a promising new model of urbanism for the global south. 3 x 4 will use an immersive telematic networked environment to provide a playful, sensorial exploration of new hybrids of digital space as the boundaries of space shift. Merging two 3 x 4 metre room installations in Delhi and London through mixed-reality, this transnational dialogue intends to set an aspiration for developing metaspace platforms in megacities of the global south.

    It builds upon practice-based research conducted as UnBox LABS 2014 Fellows in Ahmedabad, India; which used an immersive installation to explore the qualities and values built through self-organised communities that are lost in the resettlement process. See 3 x 4 documentary video for more information (opens in new window).

Dr Michael Edwards, University of Edinburgh, Boxing the mNAP (a mobile Noise Abatement Pod for raising awareness of the effects of noise pollution)

  • This collaborative project - involving a composer, architect, community-building project manager / development scholar, film maker, electronics engineer and graphic designer - aims to draw public attention to the levels of noise pollution in Indian cities, with a particular focus on Delhi, which is now considered one of the top 10 mega-cities in the world. Whilst peace and quiet are essential to rest and recuperation, city traffic and other noise pollution can deleteriously affect human health by raising blood pressure and heart rate, disturbing sleep, and causing hearing loss, or in extreme cases deafness. Building on work undertaken as part of the UnBox Labs in Ahmedabad, India, in February/March 2014, we aim to raise people's awareness of the problem of noise pollution through the creation of a sound installation inside a custom-designed mobile listening pod (mNAP).

Professor Lorraine Gamman, Central St Martin's College, University of the Arts London Design Thinking for Prison Industries: Exchanging design tools, methods and processes with prisons in London and Ahmedabad to build inmate resilience

  • With increasingly urban populations, changing migration patterns, political and economic instability, weak government and a growing youth population, crime and safety will continue to be an issue in future cities. In both the UK and Indian context current levels of recidivism amongst ex-offenders challenges the delivery of 'effective and sustainable services within the context of rapid growth in urban centres'. Specifically, criminal justice services. Consequently, this project explores how in future cities design research can 'build communities of engaged responsible citizens' focusing on ex-offenders as 'returning citizens'. By providing ex-offenders with opportunities to apply their creativity to anti-crime product design rather than criminal scams the project will explore how design principles and practices can build employability and entrepreneurial capacity amongst ex-offenders to help 'transform our cities into more engaging spaces, actively addressing issues around governance, identity, safety, sustainability and mobility' particularly social mobility for marginalized groups. Two prestigious design institutions - Design Against Crime at Central Saint Martins, UK and the National Institute of Design - will work independently with ex-offenders in London and Ahmedabad to deliver action research projects linked to the design and manufacture of anti-theft bags, which will explore the concept of 'restorative enterprise'.

Dr Tom Corby, University of Westminster, I Stood Up to Violence: Making it Public

  • This project brings together Indian and UK-based academics and designers to develop joint responses to the idea of 'the future city'. It seeks to engage with problems of violence against women and environmental degradation, issues relevant both to 'now cities' and 'future cities'. For example, it is known that climate change amplifies existing inequalities particularly in city locales, leading to overcrowding, lack of privacy and the collapse of regular routines and livelihood patterns; all these can result in outbreaks of social disorder. As women constitute the largest percentage of the world's poorest people, they are most affected by these changes which often manifest as gendered abuse. In the Indian context these systemic and economic issues are exacerbated by specific cultural triggers including honour crimes and other customs and beliefs that take the status of unofficial law. The project will be co-investigated by Professor Dilys Williams, Director Centre for Sustainable Fashion, University of the Arts London.


Our research asks how a joint Indian-UK research project can develop considered responses to these matters through production of innovative designs, artworks and events that make these issues visible and engage people in conversation about them.

Due to this successful collaboration the AHRC is working closely with UnBox, British Council, Science & Innovation Network and the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India on other joint projects over the next year.

For further information, please contact:

Danielle Moore-Chick, AHRC: 01793 416021 d.moore-chick@ahrc.ac.uk

Notes to editors

  • For full details of the lab, please go to the LABS website (opens in new window). The projects will be showcased at the UnBox Festival (opens in new window) in Delhi in November 2014.
  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. For further information on the AHRC, please go to: www.ahrc.ac.uk
  • Click here for further details on the British Council Fellows (opens in new window)
  • The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. We are a Royal Charter charity, established as the UK's international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. Our 7000 staff in over 100 countries work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year through English, arts, education and society programmes. We earn over 75% of our annual turnover of £739 million from services which customers pay for, education and development contracts we bid for and from partnerships. A UK Government grant provides the remaining 25%. We match every £1 of core public funding with over £3 earned in pursuit of our charitable purpose. For more information, please visit the British Council website (opens in a new window). You can also keep in touch with the British Council through Twitter (opens in a new window) and through the British Council blog (opens in a new window).
  • The UK Science and Innovation Network has bases in 25 countries with around 100 staff in total. The Network's purpose is wide-ranging, and involves science diplomacy and fostering collaboration in science and innovation. We work with academia, research establishments and businesses in the UK and its international partners. Our work includes gathering information, providing analysis, producing reports and running briefing sessions. We use interactive platforms such as seminars, workshops, conferences, sponsored visits and researcher exchanges to engage the UK and its international partners directly. Further information is available on the UK Science and Innovation Network website (opens in new window).
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