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MDX lecturer helps create virtual exhibition for Edinburgh Science Festival

Future Green Spaces imagines sustainable and resilient environmental design for the Scottish capital, building bridges with those who feel excluded from consultations

Senior Lecturer in Product Design and Engineering at MDX Wyn Griffiths is a key player behind a virtual exhibition imagining the future of green spaces in Edinburgh.

The Future Green Spaces event, part of this year's Edinburgh Science Festival, is a virtual gallery created by local artists and ecologists, presented by Wyn's Community Interest Company SMASH-UK in collaboration with the British Ecological Society (BES).

The free event, which runs until Sunday and can be reached through this link, takes visitors to a virtual 3D gallery overlooking Arthur's Seat. Artworks include a tree-filled, environmentally resilient Nicolson Street - currently the city's most polluted thoroughfare - and Leith-on-Sea, defending against sea level rises by embracing nature.

Edinburgh artists have worked with ecologists from Scottish Wildlife Trust, City of Edinburgh council, Nature Scot, Forest Research, Architecture & Design Scotland and Bangor University, in a co-design process Wyn, along with Dr Lindsay Keith of the University of Greenwich, has developed through his SMASHFest UK and Space Plague immersive STEAM experiences for young people and their families.

Visitors to the exhibition have shared their own ideas for future green spaces in Edinburgh. Both the exhibition designs and the public's submissions will input into Edinburgh council's Thriving Green Spaces project for the city.

Senior Education and Engagement Officer at the British Ecological Society Chris Jeffs says that "working with Wyn especially has taken the BES's public engagement work to the next level. He is enthusiastic, teaches by example and you absorb so much from him. He brings such joy to any project you work on.

"We're working with our own community and with communities more widely in a much deeper way. Collaborative workshops have meant everyone has contributed their vision - it's got rid of those power imbalances of someone telling you what the result should be".

"A sustainable and green future will only be successful if it takes in the voices of everyone it affects".

Wyn says that the exhibition team will be continuing the project through to and during the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November and are developing the approach taken as a new mechanism for doing inclusive public consultation. When local authorities consult on new developments and initiatives, there are "huge invisible barriers" holding back parts of the public from participating, he says: "society has made them feel this is not for them. The mechanisms are really exclusionary for those without experience".

"Edinburgh Council has been visionary - they were already moving in a similarish direction". Meanwhile the BES was one of a series of partners on the Space Plague project which Wyn and colleagues have been working on over the past two years.

"One of the most important things for me about Future Green Spaces is the reinforcement of the research we've been doing about the power of interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral collaboration," Wyn adds. “This has been an exciting extension of our co-design practice - connecting places, diverse professional groups and communities through the SMASH principle of ‘In the community, with the community, by the community’ and exploring how these collaborations can manifest in digital as well as physical spaces". An article about the research will appear in the September issue of the open access Research for All journal.

After a live-action pilot at the Albany, Deptford, in February 2020, Space Plague has been reconfigured as an entirely online, fully immersive experience. Work to develop and improve it will continue over the next year.

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