Course Syllabus

  Strategies for Urban Livability

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SUL references - Gehl x JJ-1.JPGPhoto: Regitze Marianne Hess

Semester & Location:

Summer 2022, Session 1 - DIS Copenhagen


Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits


Major Disciplines:

Urban Studies, Urban Design, Urban Policy



Understanding that biking is an integrated piece of the course- must be able to bike



Regitze Marianne Hess 


Program Director:

Natalie Jeffers-Hansen


Time & Place:

Daily: 10:00 - 16:00 time range

Location: V10 - A32


*Prerequisite: Understanding that biking is an integrated piece of the course- must be able to bike

Description of Course

This is an interdisciplinary course which alternates between scales of public space and street design to urban policy and planning, with an aim to equip students with the ability to think critically about and play an active role in the creation of livable cities. In this course, we will explore urban livability through three lenses.

1. Theory: Livability on Paper: What are the key principles of livability - terminology, definitions, factors, indicators, measures, metrics and rankings

2. Practice: Livability in Reality: Using Copenhagen as a laboratory, we will explore when, where, and what the parameters are for urban livability, in terms of societal context - what shapes our parameters for well-being- and physical context - the tangible environment and how we shape our urban landscape

3. Implementation: Facilitating Urban Change: What are the mechanisms for fostering urban livability, who are the different stakeholders, and how are they involved

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course, you, as a student, should be able to identify the three strategies, both at a political/policy level, an urban planning/urban design level, and a socio-cultural level. In addition, you will be able to understand the dynamic interdependency between all elements of the urban environment. By the end of the course, you, as a student, will not only have gained new knowledge but equally important, you will have acquired new tools of how to put new as well as existing knowledge into a new perspective.

More specifically by the end of the course you should know:

  • how to identify and analyze political intentions/design strategies within the urban environment
  • how to reflect about policy, design and use of the urban environment, and the interdependent relation between these.
  • how to develop a ‘personal livability encyclopedia’ based on the information of the lectures and the personal findings of the field trips
  • how to convert these findings into a set of strategic tools for urban livability


Regitze Marianne Hess: Architect MAA, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture, Copenhagen (1993). B.Eng. – Civil, McGill University, Montreal (1985).

A long range of experience advocating for better cities and built environments through the world of philanthropy, non-profits, academia & private practice; as conference organizer; curator; publisher, editor & writer; teacher and critic. Current positions of trust include: COurban Advisory; Design Declaration Steering Committee; IFHP Knowledge; Scale Denmark Advisory; UIA2023CPH Advisory. With DIS since 2002.


  • Frug, Gerald, “Who Decides, Who Decides”, p. 14, Governing Urban Futures, Urban Age, 2014
  • Gehl, Jan. Life Between Buildings, [1971 DK version] 1987 UK version
  • Gehl, Jan. Cities for People, Island Press, 2010
  • Gehl, Jan & Svarre. How to Study Public Life, Island Press, 2013
  • Gehl Studio, Public Life & Urban Justice in NYC’s Plazas, Nov. 2015
  • Hess, Regitze Marianne, #1 City to Live In Copenhagen, Metropolis Magazine, Sept. 2016.
  • Hess, Regitze Marianne, March, Exploring Copenhagen, 2018.
  • Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961
  • Katz, Bruce, Why Copenhagen Works
  • Katz, Bruce, CPH City & Port, Regenerating Cities
  • City of Copenhagen, København, A Short Description of the Origin of Copenhagen, 1973
  • City of Copenhagen,  A Metropolis for People: Visions and Goals for Urban Life in Copenhagen 2015, 2009.
  • City of Copenhagen. Good, Better, Best, City of Copenhagen’s Bicycle Strategy, 2011 – 2025, 2011
  • City of Copenhagen, Bicycle Account
  • City of Copenhagen. Copenhagen Climate Adaptation Plan: Copenhagen Carbon Neutral by 2025, Oct. 2011
  • City of Copenhagen. Copenhagen Climate Projects


Field Study Excusions

  • Copenhagen Bath, Beach & Beyond
  • Around The Sound: Helsingør - Helsingborg - Malmö


Expectations of the Students

All students are expected to be independent learners/thinkers, good observers, and capable of riding a bicycle. The academic content of the lectures will be substantial but the learning objective is primarily the ability to translate that academic knowledge into usable applicable knowledge using the city as the urban laboratory for this. Students are expected to be able to conduct individual observation exercises, as well as storytelling exercises and what-if-scenario assignments. Students are expected to be smart and imaginative in relation to the exercises and assignments as well as sensible and sensitive in relation to lectures and field trips. There are times to discuss and create and there are times to look and listen.

Team spirit: All students are expected to be helpful and pay attention to your fellow classmates, especially in relation of the field trips and mapping/observation exercises. Sharing information and experiences is highly encouraged: together we know more.


Each student will be graded on the level of engagement in the class discussion and conversations in relation to lectures as well as the field trips. The mapping and observation exercises in the city’s urban spaces will be graded on the quality of the information gathered rather than a preciseness of the notation/sketching techniques. No former drawing/diagramming skills are required. The findings from the exercises will form the basis of information from which the final paper will be created. To be eligible for a passing grade in this class, students must complete all of the assigned work






Gauging Public Life - Observation & Data Collection


Foraging for Urban Livability - Mapping


Final - Fostering Public Life - Pop-Up


Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:

DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -

Course Summary:

Date Details Due