SDG Arena at WUF10 / UAE

UN-Habitat SDG Arena for the 10th World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi

Client:UN-Habitat, Nairobi

Take a walk around a very large SGD circle. It measures 20 meter in diameter and the tallest house  – SDG 11 – is 5,5 meter.

The UN-Habitat SDG Arena at WUF10 steals the show

A space that communicate aout the Sustainable Development Goals

The UN-Habitat SDG Arena is an interactive exhibition space, designed like a city around a main square that doubled as a small amphitheatre during events. The SDG Arena could be displayed comfortably in a modern art gallery because of the immersive, experiential moments it created. From a room that felt like an aquarium to highlight SDG 14, Life Under Water, to the rainforest room, complete with bird sounds and the smell of trees to highlight SDG 15 Life on Land, the SDG city attracted thousands of delegates who walked through its streets.

The structure is a city shape

When you look at the exhibition from the top you will be able to find houses that are surrounding a square, you will see courtyards and narrow alleys. You will recognize all the different elements you know from a city. The largest and tallest house carry number 11, since it is the most important goal for UN-Habitat.

Sustainable Development Goal 11 aims at creating cities and communities that are inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. It is the docking station for the other Sustainable Development Goals, because most of sustainable development can happen in cities and can be accelerated through action in cities.

To see how people are using the space, how it’s been shared on social media, how it’s inspiring people, and to see how people are using it to hold events and meetings has been truly gratifying.

Everyday there was a short video launched showing a timelaps of the previous day.

The courtyard in the arena is used for the launch of the Flagship Program on Urban Poor. Poufs were stored and could easily be moved when need occurred.
Copyright: UN-Habitat/Julius Mwelu 



Livestream: Overview of the city shape where it is possible to see the way people are interacting with the space.

A school group walks through the structure from room to alcove. The concept is from an SDG wheel, but it shows the urban dimension of the goals, and it shows some of the principles UN-Habitat advocates for though our mandate in sustainable urbanization.

SDG 7: Clean and Affordable Energy

A group of three people arrive at a mysterious yellow door cut into a panel on the outside of the UN-Habitat SDG Arena. On the wall in English and Arabic is written “SDG 7: Clean and Affordable Energy”. The small group pause, then gingerly push the door open. One of them squeals in amazement as they step into a mirror-lined room filled with multicoloured LED lightbulbs dangling from floor to ceiling. The repetition of lights caused by the reflection between the mirrors creates an infinity of twinkling lights. The three people are also reflected endlessly, becoming part of the exhibition too. Immediately they pull out their phones and start taking selfies.

Abu Dhabi, 9 February 2020. Showing UN-Habitat’s ED around in the SDG Arena after the opening ceremony.

Copyright: UN-Habitat/Julius Mwelu

Facts / Institution: UN-Habiat, Nairobi. Idea and design  graphic designer Maiken Lyster Thonke, Lysth. Manufacturer: ADNEC

Photo and video credit on this page  UN-Habitat and Maiken Lyster Thonke.