Sustainable Urban Planning & Design, Situations / Contemporary Trends studio (MSc) KTH Royal Institute of Technology

This studio course was part of a then new program in ‘Sustainable Urban Design and Planning’ (SUPD) spanning KTH departments of Architecture and the Built Environment and Environmental Strategies Research. The studio explored processes of urbanization in light of ecological issues and tensions. It was structured to alternate between human, local site and human scales, combining practical design while sharpening critical thinking. A studio pedagogical model entailed that students worked continually on a series of tasks, supported by teaching and supervision one full day per week. Each studio took place around a specific site of urban transformation, with an objective to stimulate students to enter into dialogue with local actors, stakeholders, and peers. It consisted of a research-led module (I) and a module developing strategic proposals for the site and the region (II). The studio course ran in parallel with a theoretical course: part I developed synergies with a course about theories of science and research methodologies, and part II relates to the course in urban economics.

Level Masters (MSc)
Credits 7.5+7.5 (studio), 3 (crash course)
Dates 2013-2015
Number of students 17-22

My role
– 2013: I co-organized a ‘crash course’
– 2013: I was co-teacher in the ‘Contemporary Trends’ I and II studios
– 2014: I was co-teacher in the ‘Situations’ I and II studios
– 2015: I was course leader of the ‘Situations' I and II studios

The studio was initiated by by Meike Schalk and was implemented with a teaching team including myself and 2-3 other teachers in architecture, landscape architecture, art and with guest experts. The ‘crash course’ was a one-off activity inside another course unit led by Josefin Wangel. The studio changed name in 2014. In the studio, each took the lead on one or more 2-week tasks, and all took part in joint planning, lecture/seminar and tutoring and assessment activities. In 2013 and 2014, I led a task on design research methods, took a leading role in a task on future scenarios, and took on leadership of the studio in 2015.

2013 Crash course on ‘Sustainable qnd Resilient Albano Campus’
Apart from the studio, but with studio co-teachers, a ‘crash course’ was held within another SUPD module. The starting point was the sustainability premise of KTH’s new Albano Campus. The first week focuses on “what is” – through field and literature-based research, students identified problems and developed planning proposals around opportunities related to a socio-ecological resilient campus. The second week shifted from "what is" to "what if" – students developed 'experience prototypes' of what their socio-ecologically resilient Albano could feel like, to spend time or live in at a human-scale. I was responsible for the ‘experience prototyping’ perspective.

2013 ‘Contemporary Trends’ I and II
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. This studio asked, but what is meant by periphery? What are the specific features, qualities, skills and assets, problems and opportunities, of “peripheral” conditions? The focus was 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. The North requires critically re-thinking sustainable development – we asked, how could just environments in the Barents look like? There was a study-trip to Haparanda (SE) / Tornio (FI) for field research and design development. A public exhibition of interim work from ours and the Critical Studies studio was held at Coffice, and the final presentations took place within a public exhibition at the school.

2014 ‘Situations’ I and II
Årstafältet was the site for this studio, as a vivid example of contemporary struggles over urban green space. In Stockholm, a historical strategy for environmental conservation in Stockholm are the so-called ‘green wedges’, remnants of former connected biotopes from previous land-use practices. While partly fragmented by urban expansion, these continue to support a vibrant biodiversity. Over recent decades, Årstafältet has increasingly been the subject of struggles over urban development – local groups have mobilized around a public investment to create a ‘landscape park’, a decision made in 2000 but later changed by authorities, and Årstafältet is now being defined as a ‘city development area’. This adds a political dimension to issues of sustainable development and urban planning, which demands that we explore the role of civil society in struggles around urban green areas. Students engaged actively on site in Årstafältet, and the studio involved a study visit to Tempelhofer Feld (Tempelhof Field) in Berlin. The studio concluded with a public exhibition in Årsta Folketshuset in the setting of a debate including representatives from 8 political parties,

2015 ‘Situations’ I and II
This studio continued investigation of the urban struggles within the site Årstafältet in Stockholm. In these struggles, artifacts such as maps, stories and images and scenarios play important roles in articulating different understandings and possible futures of Årstafältet. At stake in the studio questions: What kind of existing and new interests (including species and ways of living) are envisioned here, and by whom? What could possible planning processes or spatial designs look like? Who plans, designs, and decides for whom? Perhaps the most profound question we could ask is: How can sustainable urban planning and design be practiced to contribute to just socio-ecological transformation? Course development included sharpening of the tasks to include background research, futures studies, systems and design (macro and micro-scale) approaches. Part I investigated ‘what is’ at stake and on site, culminating in a futures-oriented vision asking ‘what if’ – Part II unfolded these speculations systematically and practically at multiple scales. The studio involved a study visit to Istanbul to explore and learn from related struggles and stakeholders.

Image (above)
2014 student projects at a public exhibition at Årsta Folketshuset

See also

/ Teaching / Graduate supervision