Schools Reinventing London

23 Feb 2023 Schools Reinventing London blog banner

By: Minecraft Education and C40

London is calling!

Primary and secondary school students join Design Future London’s design challenge as part of Schools Reinventing Cities.

The first ‘Schools Reinventing Cities’ challenge kicked off at the Design Future London launch at University of East London on 26th January. It will be running until 25th April. Mayor of London and Chair of C40 Cities, Sadiq Khan, is inviting London’s students to join his efforts to protect the things that make London great. He also wants their ideas to improve their city - a key focus of the challenge is how London can be better for everyone.

Schools Reinventing Cities has been developed by Minecraft Education and C40 Cities to give school students around the world the opportunity to design climate solutions for their city and present their ideas to city leaders. In city-wide challenges, students learn about climate action in cities. They then build their climate solutions in Minecraft Education, a game-based learning platform used by millions of teachers and students that inspires creative, inclusive learning through play. 

A Minecraft character representing London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, standing in front of a building

The Design Future London challenge encompasses the many ways young Londoners can be inspired to make their city one where everyone thrives. The challenge invites students to not only learn about green careers in the built environment but understand how the built environment impacts our daily lives now and in the future. This city-wide challenge is open for students aged 11–24+ to present their ideas to revitalise Croydon Town Centre, an area designated as an ‘Opportunity Area’ in London.

Students’ designs will consider the design challenge:

“How can we reimagine Croydon town centre to make it a greener, safer and a more prosperous place for everyone?"

Both primary and secondary school students have been given the chance to use Minecraft to build their solutions. In a blocky version of London created by the Minecraft world-building experts at Lifeboat Network, students will encounter characters with knowledge on creating high streets that work for all, building homes for Londoners, sustainable transport, green energy, and community spaces.  

What does the Design Future London Challenge look like in Minecraft Education?

By incorporating the Minecraft challenge as part of the Design Future London launch, students will be digitally immersed in London, providing a concrete way (pun intended) for students to fully experience London’s built environment. While building solutions, students experience the diverse roles of built environment professionals: architects, designers, city planners, construction managers, builders, project management, and engineers. Engaging young people in a fun way will play a unique role in shaping the future of the built environment and help to cultivate the next generation of skilled professionals in this field.

Students will spawn at the Tower of London and be greeted by Mayor Sadiq Khan. He will give a welcome message to the challenge and emphasise the importance for young people to feel inspired to make a positive change for their city.

Students are then transported to London City Hall, where they will meet Deputy Mayor, Jules Pipe, Chief Planner for London, Lucinda Turner, and C40 Executive Director, Mark Watts, to learn about London’s priorities in becoming a sustainable city.

After learning about the pillars of the strategy, students will be transported by Minecraft to Croydon Town Centre. Lucinda will ask students to talk with workers, residents, and visitors in the surrounding area to learn more about Croydon’s needs and opportunities. While they speak with these NPCs [Non-Player Characters], they will start to brainstorm solutions and ideas to transform Croydon into a place where all Londoners can thrive and nobody is left behind.

Attendees at a Design Future London event using their smartphones to capture images of the Minecraft presentation

After they finish talking with the NPCs, students can start constructing and creating their solution to revitalise the centre and contribute to the built environment.

When the build is complete, students will create a short video tour of their solution, explaining how they addressed the challenge in Minecraft and their vision of a more sustainable London.

The Launch

The Design Future London launch was hosted by University of East London (UEL) at their Docklands campus, not far from the Greater London Authority offices. On Thursday 26th, Deputy Mayor for London Jules Pipe formally opened the competition. He highlighted the importance of young people in creating the London they want to live in. A career in the built environment is a clear route to helping create a fairer city, designed with climate change in mind. After the introductory remarks, we heard from University of East London architecture students who will be participating in Design Future London.

The students had been given 36 hours to create their initial ideas for how to reinvent Croydon high street. One day had been used for exploring Croydon; both off-screen through a site visit, and on-screen in the Minecraft world. During the site visit, they assessed what was great about the area, and what was needed if it is to be more sustainable and liveable.

An important part of Design Future London is ‘making high streets for all.’ Students were encouraged to think about who uses Croydon high street during both the day and night. In the Minecraft world, London’s Night Czar, Amy Lame, is a non-player character and provides explanations as you explore the town centre after dark. During the students’ presentations, it was great to see how Minecraft had been used to imagine the area at different times of day for different people.

The students presented their designs through sketches, renderings, and videos of their Minecraft builds. It was interesting to hear how the students took ideas from other city highstreets they liked, such as seating areas in streets in Lille, France, or the painted houses in Hidalgo, Mexico, and considered how they would work in Croydon. We heard so many exciting ideas – from redesigning a shopping area into a leisure centre to attract families, to using art to make the streets more colourful.

It was amazing that the students had completed these designs in a day and a half. We are so impressed at the level of detail already, and excited to see what can be achieved before the closing date in April. We look forward to being inspired for how we can make a Croydon town centre that works for everyone, now and in the future.

Be sure to check out Design Future London's YouTube channel to watch the University of East London’s launch event in action and learn more about the challenge!

The Minecraft world is now live for all young people to download from the Design Future London website.

For more information, visit the schools reinventing cities page. Let the ideas flow, block-by-block.