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Cities in Flux: intensive course brings together students to address the challenges of urban sustainable development

Published on 17.6.2024
Tampere University
Ryhmäkuva intensiivikurssille osallistuneista opiskelijoista
Photo: Atticus Russwurm
Last winter, the Bachelor’s Degree Programme in Sustainable Urban Development at Tampere University hosted an international field course on urban sustainability that brought together students from Tampere University, Dublin City University and Utrecht University. The course culminated in a competition organised in collaboration with the City of Tampere. The winning team of students presented an innovative solution to optimise indoor lighting conditions in the Finlayson area near Tampere city centre in the winter.

The field course organised by the Bachelor’s Degree Programme in Sustainable Urban Development (SUD) in collaboration with Dublin City University and Utrecht University took place in Ylöjärvi and Tampere, Finland. The week-long course, themed “Cities in Flux”, involved tours of Tampere and a variety of winter activities, such as taking a dip in a hole in the ice. The course culminated in a competition pitting student teams against each other to develop a solution to one of the urban sustainability challenges facing Tampere.

The field course was a part of a broader Urban Lab course, where students attending SUD delve into timely challenges related to urban development. In these Urban Labs, students work in multidisciplinary teams to identify and develop solutions to urban challenges. The courses are conducted in collaboration with the City of Tampere, NGOs and companies. 

“Cities are complex systems, and addressing their problems requires a multidisciplinary approach and an understanding of city administration and the needs of practical stakeholders. The challenge-based approach of the Urban Labs allows students to practice all this in a safe environment,” says Salla Jokela, University Lecturer in SUD.

Intensiivikurssin opiskelijat tutustumassa Finlaysonin alueeseenPhoto: Atticus Russwurm

Close collaboration with the City of Tampere

Representatives of the City of Tampere introduced students attending the field course to the current development plans for Tampere and the specific plan for the Kaukajärvi-Annala district. 

This type of collaboration between Tampere University and the City of Tampere not only allows the City to integrate valuable input from students into ongoing urban development projects and processes but also provides students with the opportunity to gain meaningful real-world experience while working towards their bachelor’s degree.   

“Our collaboration with Tampere University was highly productive. The students offered fresh perspectives for developing the selected urban areas, and we will forward their proposals to the City’s urban planning specialists. Through this collaboration, we gained an opportunity to enhance the visibility of regional development careers among students and promote the City of Tampere as a potential employer,” says Project Planner Sini Lempinen from the City of Tampere.

Intensiivikurssin opiskelijat kävelemässä TampereellaPhoto: Atticus Russwurm

“Escape the darkness” brings light to the darkness of winter

During the course, teams composed of students from the three universities selected one urban sustainability challenge facing Tampere that they wanted to address. The teams gathered material for their assignment by taking notes and photos, conducting environmental measurements, and experimenting with arts-based research methods. Under the guidance of doctoral researcher Lauri Jäntti, the students made paper dolls that represented their alter egos, providing alternative perspectives on the urban experience.

“The alter egos help to make students aware of the experiences of marginalised groups, while also allowing students to reflect on the different aspects of themselves. We wanted students to explore inclusive urban development that defies conventional notions of urban planning,” says Jokela.

At the end of the course, an entry titled “Escape the Darkness”, designed to address the problems caused by reduced exposure to sunlight during the winter season in Finland, was selected as the winner. This innovation optimised indoor lighting conditions to closely mimic natural light, promoting both human health and productivity.

Throughout the course, students worked in multicultural and multidisciplinary teams, enabling them to explore urban development questions from a variety of perspectives. 

“For students arriving in Tampere from Dublin and Utrecht, the snow, ice, ice swimming and winter darkness were exotic experiences. Topics such as slippery streets and snow removal in the winter sparked lively discussions among them. This prompted students and teachers living in Tampere to consider everyday mobility and accessibility from a new angle,” Jokela says.   

Read more about the intensive course from the blog dedicated to the Bachelor’s Degree Programme in Sustainable Urban Development 

Author: Jenna Ala-Rantala