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Ephemeral Cities: Sustainable research into non-sustainable urban objects

GCSC Theme: The Cultural City

Lead: Dr Richard Taws (UCL History of Art)

Main collaborator: Dr Jann Matlock (UCL French and SELCS)

Additional collaborator: Dr Barbara Penner (UCL Barlett School of Architecture)

GCSC (Taws) Ephemeral Cities-Sustainable Research into Non-Sustainable Urban Objects

Project: Our project will create a network of scholars in Europe and North America working on ruin, obsolescence, waste and demolition in modern cities. UCL Grand Challenges funding will support two focused interdisciplinary workshops and site visits designed to establish research connections and develop international dialogues. A website will accompany the workshops and a published collection of papers will disseminate this research to a wide public and generate international frameworks for future collaborations.

We begin with the premise that sustainable cities must contemplate their pasts as well as their futures. While researching the ephemeral aspects of cities might seem antithetical to an analysis of the sustainable city, we argue that the broken and the ruined, the ephemeral and the short-lived, the torn-down and the wasted, are crucial to policy as well as practices of sustainability. Ephemeral Cities will provide a historical and contextual investigation of buildings, objects, images and spaces that either fell by the wayside or were never meant to last. Investigating how ephemerality came to stand for the experience of urban life, we will ask how lessons from the past might help us meet the challenge presented by our own discarded objects in the cities of the future.