LNAK10028U Urban Ecosystems: Structures, Functions and Designs

Volume 2015/2016
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 often 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, urban farming, 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. Furhter the course has a focus on innovation and business opertunities.    

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. with an interest in the urban environment. The ambition of the teachers is to make students able to apply knowledge from natural science  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 excursions and several exercises for a better understanding. By means of innovative learning methods the theory is transferred to design criteria and design proposals.

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 services
- 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, suggest design solutions and evaluate result
- To acquire in-depth knowledge on specific aspects of urban ecosystems structures and functions in an independent manner
- To reflect upon and discuss the value systems that underlie structures and functions of various urban ecosystems
- To transfer knowledge from natural science into innovative urban designs and approaches

- To take first steps into exploiting innovative ideas for businesses

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. 15 in-class exercises, a number of paper presentations, one full day excursion or two half day excursions, an individual assignment and a group project. Guest lecturers are included ad hoc.
Compulsory tasks (participation in paper presentations, completion of compulsory exercises) must be succesfully completed.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Colloquia
  • 6
  • Exam
  • 7
  • Excursions
  • 10
  • Guidance
  • 30
  • Lectures
  • 20
  • Practical exercises
  • 23
  • Project work
  • 90
  • Theory exercises
  • 20
  • Total
  • 206
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination, 2 hours under invigilation
Written assignment
The written exam is a test in the mechanisms, potentials and limitations associated with different ecosystem services.
The written paper is prepared during the course and handed in during the exam week. The final mark is based on the individual assignment and the written exam and are weighted 50 % each.
Without aids
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several interanal examiners.
Criteria for exam assesment

Please see learning outcome.