LNAK10028U  Urban Ecosystems: Structures, Functions and Designs

Volume 2014/2015
MSc Programme in Landscape Architechture

Cities are hot spots in terms of resource consumption, waste production and emission of greenhouse gasses. At the same time cities are global centers for economy and culture, and home to more than half of the world’s population. Climate resilience and sustainable resource management depend – among other things - on our ability to develop and retrofit cities in a good way. This is true for all cities, be it new and rapidly growing cities or old and stabilized, or even shrinking, cities.

The course focuses on the ability of a strong green infrastructure to contribute to resource management and climate adaptation of urbanized areas. This is sometimes referred to as ecosystem services. How can knowledge on vegetation, soil, air, climate and water be used to suggest overall green structures and specific elements for stormwater management, water supply, biodiversity support, mitigation of urban heat island, etc.? The suggested physical changes must at the same time enhance urban livability, and be doable in terms of administrative and economic resources. Which theories and methods can be applied, and what is the role of environmental experts, landscape architectures and urban planners in this context? The main focus of the course is on the freshwater cycle and adaptation to more extreme weather conditions, mainly in a developed world context, but all mentioned subjects are covered.    

The course is inviting students from a number of disciplines to participate. It is relevant for urban designers and planners as well as for agronomists, geographers, biologists, etc. The ambition of the teachers is to make students able to employ natural science knowledge in new urban designs at multiple scales, in order to increase sustainability and climate resilience. As such the course contains a number of lectures in which relevant knowledge from environmental chemistry, agronomy, climatology and biology is presented. The lectures are supported by several exercises for a better understanding. By means of innovative learning methods the theory is transferred to design criteria and specific design proposals. Additionally, 2-3 small conferences are organized with invited speakers to give insight into the current approach.

Learning Outcome

This course provides an understanding of structures, functions and dynamics of urban ecosystems, and how ecosystem services can be optimized, re-designed and managed to support sustainable urban development. The course combines urban planning and landscape architecture with natural sciences such as soil hydrology, environmental chemistry, climatology and biology. The aim is to have students, teachers and external actors that represent different disciplines to exchange, apply and evaluate concepts and methods for sustainable urban development.

- To be familiar with theory and principles of urban ecosystem science
- To understand causes and effects of climate change in urban areas
- To be familiar with urban growth and dynamics in Denmark and globally
- To know main quantitative and qualitative components of the urban water cycle
- To be familiar with definitions of biodiversity and major factors controlling population stability
- To understand relations between natural processes (e.g. urban climates, the water cycle, biodiversity, soils) and urban form and function
- To gain an overview over case studies of sustainable urban water management and climate change adaptation, from city to site scale.

- To be able to transfer ecosystem concepts and principles to problem oriented studies.
- To be able to apply knowledge and methods for the analysis and design of sustainable urban ecosystems.

- To work in multidisciplinary groups and present results and knowledge to other students and external actors.
- To undertake a problem oriented study, design solutions and make evaluation
- To acquire in-depth knowledge on specific aspects of urban ecosystems structure and function in an independent manner.
- To reflect upon and discuss the value systems that underlie structure and functioning of various urban ecosystems.
- To transfer knowledge from naturel science into innovative urban designs and approaches

A number of compulsory papers and book chapters constitutes the course texts. Further literature will be recommended during the course in connection with specific themes.

The course consists of approx. 15 lectures, approx. 6 exercises in-class and outdoor, a number of paper presentations, a full day excursion, an individual assignment, a group project, and 2-3 mini-conferences
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination, 3 hours under invigilation
The written exam is a test in the mechanisms, potentials and limitations associated with different ecosystem services.
Exam registration requirements
Individual assignment must be presented and uploaded on Absalon.
Group report must be presented and uploaded on Absalon.
Without aids
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners
Criteria for exam assesment

Please see learning outcome.
The final mark is equally based on the individual assignment and the written exam.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 20
  • Project work
  • 90
  • Practical exercises
  • 15
  • Theory exercises
  • 15
  • Exam
  • 10
  • Colloquia
  • 18
  • Excursions
  • 8
  • Guidance
  • 30
  • Total
  • 206