Contemporary Trends I & II, MSc studio in Sustainable Urban Design and Planning, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, AG2126 & AG2124 2013, 15 credits



This studio course is part of a new program in Sustainable Urban Design and Planning that spans KTH departments of Architecture and the Built Environment and Environmental Strategies Research. The studio explores processes of urbanization that are transforming landscapes and living conditions around the world. Along with growing spatial polarization, views of certain areas as central and others as peripheral are cultivated – a division that subordinates the rural to the urban. But what is meant by periphery? What are the specific features, qualities, skills and assets, problems and opportunities, of “peripheral” conditions? The focus of this studio is the North – more specifically, localities within the Barents region (which includes the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the northwestern part of Russia). Common characteristics are a harsh arctic climate, an indigenous nomadic population, peripheral positions within respective nation-states and extensive natural resources (for example, 40% of Sweden’s electricity is produced here and 80% of Europe’s iron ore). The Northern setting challenges us to critically re-think sustainable development – how could just environments in the Barents look like?

The course alternates between scales –  from macro to micro (1:1) perspectives. It consists of a research-led module (I) and a module developing strategic proposals for rural and urban commons in the region (II). The objective is to stimulate students to enter into dialogue with local actors, stakeholders, and peers – to engage in reflective design and to sharpen critical thinking and practical inquiry.

Image (above)
Photo from the final critique

My role
The course is led by Meike Schalk, and we were 5 teachers responsible for the studio in which 18 students participated in part I and 16 in Part II. I participated in course planning, developing tasks, giving lectures, tutorials and assessment. I led a 2-week task on design research methods and a leading role in a 2-week task on future scenarios.

The studio course runs in parallel with a theoretical course, part I develops synergies with with a course about theories of science and research methodologies and part II relates to the course in urban economics. The studio also collaborates with the Critical Studies Design Studio –  a public exhibition of interim work from both studios was held on Apr 5 at Coffice. Teaching and supervision takes place during one full day a week, based on a series of tasks guided by lectures, workshop, seminars and tutorials with tutors and external consultants. There is also a study-trip to Northern Sweden for field research and design development. Deliverables include bi-weekly tasks and a major project for module I & II of the course, conducted in groups and/or individually. The course concluded with a final critique of group and individual projects with guest experts and a public exhibition at the school in May.


See also

/ Teaching / MSc Sustainable Urban Planning and Design program