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Carolyn Steel: Can food rebuild our communities?

Carolyn Steel, author of Sitopia and The Hungry City, discusses how food remains central to addressing the challenges of our urban, digital age at this online Festival of Place Bytesize in association with U+I Think

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Access to food is an organising principle of our places. Getty Images
Access to food is an organising principle of our places. Getty Images


The Developer hosted an online Festival of Place Bytesize in association with U+I Think with author and thinker, Carolyn Steel on how food can rebuild our communities. The event took place on Tuesday 28 April from 10-11:30am via Zoom and received 470 visits.


Steel explores how food is central to our quality of life, and the key to unlocking the predicaments and opportunities of our urban, digital age.


Steel’s latest book, Sitopia: How food can save the world is described by The Guardian as “A vital call for us to rediscover the way that food binds us to each other and to the natural world, and in doing so find new ways of living.”


Sitopia or "food-place", explains how cities and human habitats have always been shaped by food – this forgotten or invisible need must be acknowledged as a central organising principle in the creation of more equitable cities and places.


A 30-minute talk by Steel was followed with reflections on food and property development by Martyn Evans, Creative Director at U+I and an open audience Q&A with The Developer Editor-in-Chief Christine Murray.


Steel’s book is available to order here.


Steel is a leading thinker on food and cities. Her 2008 book Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives is an international best-seller and her concept of sitopia (food-place) has gained recognition across a broad range of fields in academia, industry and the arts. A director of Kilburn Nightingale Architects in London, Steel studied at Cambridge University and has since been a visiting lecturer at Cambridge, London Metropolitan and Wageningen Universities and at the London School of Economics, where she was the inaugural Studio Director of the Cities Programme. A Rome scholar in 1995-6, Steel is in international demand as a speaker and her 2009 TED talk has received more than one million views. Sitopia: How Food Can Save the World, was published by Chatto & Windus in March 2020.


Evans spent 17 years with Cathedral Group, now U+I, including 6 years on the board before leaving to become Development Director at the 1,200-acre Dartington Hall Estate in Devon in 2016. He returned to U+I in 2019 to deliver the creative strategy at the heart of their purpose-driven regeneration portfolio. Evans is also Non Executive Chair of Croydon Council’s development company, Brick by Brick, Deputy Chair of the London Festival of Architecture and founder of The Young Architects and Developers Alliance (YADA). He has been a jury member of the AJ’s Small Projects, The Architect of the Year, the NLA and the Estates Gazette Awards and writes a regular column in BD.


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