Course Syllabus

Strategies for Urban Livability A

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Semester & Location:

Fall 2023 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Sociology, Urban Design, Urban Studies


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


Nina Moesby Bennetsen (current students please reach out to faculty via Canvas Inbox)

Time & Place:

Mon 14:50-17:45 in N7-B21

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 will be able to identify 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 interdependence between all elements of the urban environment. By the end of the course, you will not only have gained new knowledge but also will have acquired new tools of how to put new and 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


Nina Moesby Bennetsen

PhD. (Social Sciences, Roskilde University, 2021). Special Consultant, Technical and Environmental Administration, City of Copenhagen 2022-. External lecturer & Scientific Assistant, Roskilde University 2021-2022. Special Consultant, City of Gladsaxe, 2021. PhD Fellow, Roskilde University, 2018-2021, Project Leader, City of Gladsaxe, 2025-2017, Student, 2009-2015. With DIS since 2018.

Selected Readings

Please note there is no textbook for this course and most readings are found exclusively on Canvas.

  • Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities - 1961
  • Gehl, Jan. Cities for People – Island Press, 2010
  • Gehl and Svarre. How to Study Public Life – Island Press 2013
  • Peters, Terri - Social sustainability in Context: rediscovering Ingrid Gehl's Bomiljø
  • Kern, Leslie. Feminist city (2019)
  • Wang, Wilfried, “Sustainability is a Cultural Issue” (2003)
  • Handbook in Nordic placemaking 
  • Freudendahl Pedersen, Malene - Cyclists as a part of Copenhagen
  • Wheeler, Stephen. “Planning Sustainable and Livable Cities”. Routledge, 2003
  • Turner, Chris. The Leap - 2011
  • Copenhagen Municipality documents (Integrated Urban Renewal, Disadvantaged Areas, The Danish Bicycle Account etc.)

Field Studies

Lectures will be supported by site visits and field trips by bicycle. All topics will be covered both by literature, lectures and field trips. The field trips will include mapping and observation exercises. All course assignments will be based in these findings and investigations. The individual student notebook/sketch book will be a central element in the learning experience.

Guest Lectures

The field of urban studies and livability is a multifaceted field. It requires an interdiciplinary approach which calls for the importance of different perspectives. Therefore, several guest lecturers have been invited to speak in this course. The students will, among others, meet DIS faculty Regitze Hess on a few occasions. 

Approach to Teaching

In this course, we spend approximately 50% of classes on site. This means that teaching is varied and often very engaging, but this also requires students to be able to adapt their learning to interactive both site visits and in class lectures.

Expectations of the Students

All students are expected to be independent learners/thinkers, good observers, and capable of and comfortable 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. Late papers will be accepted but points will be deducted from the total mark relative to the delay. 




Active individual participation in class and on field studies


Mapping, observations, and creative exercises (20% + 20%)


Final project


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