The Faculty of Architecture and Built Environment recently played host to the Sustainable Cities Lab for Saudi women architects and planners, a week-long series of talks and workshops in collaboration with the Arab Urban Development Institute, the University of Westminster and Oxford Brookes University.

Taking place at the University of Westminster's Marylebone campus, the Lab gathered a group of leading Saudi and British academics and consultants to share thinking around more sustainable cities. The event was created by Dr. Roudaina Alkhani, Director of Platforms and Lecturer at the University of Westminster and Nouha Hansen, Director of Architecture at Platforms and Master of Architecture student at the University of Westminster. The discussion explored sustainable development, resilience and wellbeing.

Focus was placed on Saudi cities and how to promote responsive cities while reflecting Saudi local values. The Lab explored implementing visions through collaboration and strengthening community involvement. They also explored women’s role in promoting sustainable thinking as an ethos in all aspects of Saudi placemaking and city management. In particular, the discussions reflected on the new opportunities offered by the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and how collaboration and more informed practices and education can support its implementation and UN Sustainability Goals.

Participants emphasised the need to improve planning approaches and institutional frameworks and to create stronger collaboration and co-creation among community, education, as well as public and private agencies for more sustainability opportunities. They shared their experiences and visions on how to expand education and collaboration and to make more creative use of smart technologies. A better understanding of the value of local culture was emphasised as a driving force to sustain the unique identity and character of Saudi places.

In conclusion, the participants aim to strengthen the network of Saudi women emerging from this Lab and to take this forum forward. The outcomes will be published in a Visions Book to inspire further work.

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