University of Kent competition for sustainable urban life

Ideas for the future design and configuration of cities are being sought for a new competition promoting greater sustainability in urban environments.

Dust to Dust: Redesigning Urban Life in Healthy Soils is an urban design ideas competition in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals which include zero hunger, clean water and sanitation, responsible consumption and production, and climate action.

Currently 98% of cultivable land on earth is being farmed and two thirds of the world’s soils are suffering degradation. The continued encroachment onto, and transformation of, soils resulting from urban sprawl will significantly impact the sustainability and resilience of urban life.

As such, ideas are invited for urban designs, planning approaches, and tangible interventions that could be implemented in real-life cases of urban planning and development with successful designs promoting a close relationship between urban life and soil ecosystem services.

From the ideas received the best will be invited to a charrette (an intensive design workshop) held at the Prince’s Foundation, London on 16-18 July 2018. Selected teams will be invited to work with the researchers who are organising the competition and the curating team.


The aim is to exhibit the best ideas at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia to inform and inspire greater sustainability in the future development of cities as well as how we lead urban lives.

Organiser Dr Benjamin Vis, who is an expert in urban geography in the Classical & Archaeological Studies department in the School of European Culture and Languages (SECL), said they look forward to receiving ideas ‘outside the box’.

The competition arises from Dr Vis’s work on ancient Maya urban landscapes as a Research Fellow in Digital Humanities and Digital Heritage for the Eastern Academic Research Consortium (Eastern ARC).

To compete for a place, teams should apply by developing and submitting outline ideas by 23:59 GMT on Wednesday 9th May 2018.

For more information about the competition, and to submit outline ideas, please visit the Dust to Dust website: or for more information, contact


For further information or interview requests contact Sandy Fleming at the University of Kent Press Office.

Tel: 01227 823581


News releases can also be found at

University of Kent on Twitter:


Researchers partaking in the network Pre-Columbian Tropical Urban Life (TruLife): Placing the past in designs for sustainable urban futures applied their new interdisciplinary insights to construct the competition brief.


Dust to Dust creates a platform for exchange between research and practice that highlights the importance of soils to improve the sustainability of urban societies and ecologies.


Established in 1965, the University of Kent – the UK’s European university – now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.


It has been ranked 22nd in the Guardian University Guide 2018 and 25th in the Complete University Guide 2018, and in June 2017 was awarded a gold rating, the highest, in the UK Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).


In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, it is in the top 10% of the world’s leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its ‘Table of Tables’ 2016.


Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.


In the National Student Survey 2016, Kent achieved the fourth highest score for overall student satisfaction, out of all publicly funded, multi-faculty universities.

Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (


The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.


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