Course Syllabus

Strategies for Urban Livability B

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SUL references - Gehl x JJ.JPG

Photo: R.M.Hess

Semester & Location:

Fall 2023 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Urban Studies, Urban Design


Most classes will be spent visiting sites via bicycle, so confidence in cycling is mandatory.   


Regitze Marianne Hess (current students please reach out to faculty via Canvas Inbox)

Time & Place:

Mon 14:50-17:45 in Fi6-Metro 101

SUBJECT to CHANGES in sequencing of subject matter of the sessions

*Prerequisite: ability to bicycle is a must - as cycling culture is integral aspect of the course 

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 career of working with and advocating for better cities and built environments through the world of philanthropy, non-profits, academia & private practice; as curator; publisher, editor & writer; teacher and critic. Currently engaged in International Federation for Housing and Planning [IFHP], UIA 2023 Copenhagen World Congress of Architects, B Architectural Publisher. Positions of trust include: UIA 2023 Copenhagen Advisory; Scale Denmark Advisory; COurban Advisory; along with DIS Faculty Chair, DIS Board member and DIS Going Greener Committee. Affiliated with DIS since 2002.

Readings and References

There is no physical textbook to be picked up during arrival workshop.

References are by and large on-line, either via Canvas or links.

Key references include:

  • Gehl, Jan
    • Life Between Buildings, [1971 DK version] 1987 UK version
    • Cities for People, Island Press, 2010
    • How to Study Public Life, Island Press, 2013
  • Gehl Architects 
  • Jacobs, Jane. 
    • The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961
  • Monocle Magazine
    • July/August Issues, Quality of Life Surveys

Other references:

  • Atlas of the Copenhagens. Ruby Press 2018.
  • Agyeman, Julian & Duncan McLaren. “Smart Cities” Should Mean “Sharing Cities”, Time, 29 Sept. 2014
  •  (Links to an external site.)City of Copenhagen
    • A Metropolis for People: Visions and Goals for Urban Life in Copenhagen 2015, 2009.
    • Good, Better, Best, City of Copenhagen’s Bicycle Strategy, 2011 – 2025, 2011
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit. A Summary of the Livability Ranking and Overview
  • Frisch, Michael. Planning as a Heterosexist Project.
  • The Guardian - Cities 
  • Hagens, Hans Peter. Torvehallerne i København - og verden rundt.
  • Hess, Regitze Marianne. #1 City to Live In Copenhagen, Metropolis Magazine, Sept. 2016.
  • Merker, Blaine. “Why Designers Should Care about the Mechanics of Mixing”, In Public: Lessons, April 2015
  • Next City (Links to an external site.)
  • Sadik-Khan, Janette. Street Fight, Handbook for an Urban Revolution, 2016
  • Scale Denmark, Exploring Copenhagen, Scale Denmark, 2018. 
  • Svendsen, Gert Tinggard, Trust, Reflections 1, Aarhus University Press, 2001
  • Sennett, Richard
    • Democratic Space, Berlage Institute, 2004
    • “The Open City”
  • Urban Age
  • Wiking Meik
    • The Happiness Research Institute, The Happy Danes
    • The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well. Penguin Books, 2016.
    • The Little Book of Lykke: The Danish Search for the World’s Happiest People. Penguin Books, 2017.
  • Whyte, William H. The Social Life of Small Urban Space, 1980

Field Studies

  • Wednesday morning, 18th October 2023 (8:30-12:30) 
  • Wednesday afternoon, 29th November 2023 (13:00-17:00) 

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




Active individual participation in class and on field studies


Data collection and observations


Foraging for Urban Livability


Final: Fostering Urban Livability


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