I firmly believe in experiential learning – students learn the most by directly seeing, inhabiting and using the best practices they normally read in books. Therefore, I host an annual travel course to take American students to the best sustainable urban sites in Europe, combining students’ interest in sustainable urbanism with my European background and experience. This course takes students to projects and people in Copenhagen, Malmö, Hamburg, Berlin, Tübingen, Freiburg, Paris, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, and we have joined workshops at the Politecnico di Milano and the Université de Bordeaux.
In each city, we visit salient best practice examples of new sustainable urban developments, infill developments, infrastructural improvements and open spaces. Also, we speak with local stakeholders to gain a better understanding of how these projects became a reality, connecting impressions with implementation. In the span of only a few weeks, we visit over ten cities in five to six different countries, giving students an unprecedented opportunity to experience the real-world implementation of Europe’s most cutting edge urban aspirations.
Besides learning from visits to urbanists and tours by experienced guides and myself, students are asked to explore a theme pertaining to sustainable urbanism of their choice during various free days interspersed during the journey. This exploration is an important part of their final grade. Many participants have praised the course as a transformative experience in their educational career, allowing them to witness excellent urbanism and urbanists with their own eyes. Furthermore, every year I make new connections with local universities and professionals to meet with students.
Map of 2017 destinations.
Students visiting the office of Jan Gehl in Copenhagen in 2016.