University of Oregon

Sustainable Cities and EcoDistricts in Europe

Program Overview

The program provides an overview of relevant theories and practices of Sustainable Living Cities and Eco-District planning, development, design, and implementation in three European countries: Germany, Denmark and Sweden. Participants in this program will have the opportunity to experience first-hand the implications of each model in terms of the lives and lifestyles of residents of some of the most paradigmatic examples of sustainable and eco-district development.

Academic Details

The North American Eco-City movement—which began with Richard Register's publication of the 1987 book ‘Eco-City Berkeley’ —owes much to the eco-friendly communities and eco-villages planned in 1970s Europe. Today, Europe boasts a large number of sustainable urban districts, garden cities, and new towns where people live and work in a renewed balance between urbanity and nature.  European Cities and Eco-Districts can teach us much about successes, failures, current and future challenges for these models of sustainable development, and can help designers and planners imagine, plan and design for the future of sustainable cities in the US. 

Students will receive eight quarter-credits from the University of Oregon’s Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management (PPPM), at either the 400-level (undergraduates) or the 500-level (graduate students).* Coursework will consist of a number of brief projects, including reading summaries, case studies, site observations, reflection paper, visual essay and presentation (in groups). Graduate students will be asked to write a research paper where they will investigate in depth one of the many dimensions of sustainable urban living in the context of Eco-Districts and cities to fit their own interest and personal goals.

The Sustainable Living Cities and Eco-Districts program will stretch from central to Northern Europe, touching on some of the most paradigmatic examples of sustainable development: 

Freiburg, Germany is set in a beautiful valley at the edge of the Black Forest and is known as the sunniest and warmest city in Germany. It has a population of about 214,000. The city profits from its location where three countries (France, Germany, and Switzerland) meet. Known for its solar industries and research, Freiburg has recently re-branded itself as an an Eco-City, and has engaged in the development of pilot neighborhoods, which exemplify a new model of urban living that combines walkability, energy efficiency, green building, and green infrastructure.  Among the most popular of these districts is the Vauban Eco-District, an example of a bottom-up project that seeks to challenge the traditional, auto-centric and energy inefficient lifestyles.

Øresund Region: Copenhagen Denmark & Malmö, Sweden 
The course will then move to the Øresund Region, a transnational metro area encompassing the Danish capital, Copenhagen and Malmö, in Sweden, Over the last few decades, these cities have engaged in ambitious plans that involved cross-national policy and planning, an new bridge that connects the two cities is but one example of this collaboration. 

Copenhagen, Denmark is well known for its people-friendly urbanism and bikeability. With just over half a million inhabitants (1.2 million in the metro area), the city aims to be carbon-neutral by 2015 and is already a sustainable role model for many of the world’s cities.
Malmö, Sweden is the southernmost medium city in Sweden, located just across the Øresund Bridge from Copenhagen (trains cross every 20 minutes). This city with 300,000+ inhabitants considers itself a model of sustainable development. Once a heavy-industrial town, it has emerged as a center for clean industries, including cutting-edge IT and biotech firms. Malmö is particularly notable for its experimentation with sustainable housing solutions, as we will have the opportunity to witness. Our program will focus on the district BO01, an older iconic EcoDistrict, which uses 100% renewable energy, as well as the most recent Western Harbor district, which has improved on the experiences made in BO01.

Stockholm, Sweden is the country’s capital encompassing the 14 islands of the vast Stockholm archipelago on the Baltic Sea. This fast growing city of approximately 1 million inhabitants (1.6 million in the metro area) has gained the reputation of a leader in the ‘green economy’, whose planning and design has been the result of very innovative environmental policies in place for over 40 years. 

Hammarby Sjöstad, in Stockholm is, a post-industrial district, which was redeveloped almost two decades ago as an Eco-District. The district's name literally means "Hammarby Lake-City," and its waterfront location once made the area ideal for industries that used imported raw materials and exported finished products. In the 1990s, new plans were drawn up that led to the redevelopment of Hammarby as a mixed-use district intentionally designed to fit seamlessly in the greater urban fabric of Stockholm, while also integrating a productive landscape that manages the heavy rainfall through a system of canals and vegetated swales. The program will also study and visit the Royal Seaport, the most recent of Stockholm’s Eco-Districts. This new Eco-District has drawn on many lessons learned in Hammarby Sjöstad and seeks to continue to position Stockholm as a leader in innovative solutions to the great environmental challenges (climate change, sea-level rising and the reduction of fossil fuels use) as well as promote Swedish environmental technology and expertise in sustainable city development.

*Actual credit awarded is determined by the relevant department at your university in consultation with the study abroad office. Check with your study abroad advisor for more information.

Faculty and Staff

Deni Ruggeri is associate professor of Landscape Architecture and Spatial planning at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, where he serves as deputy director of the Centre for Landscape Democracy. His expertise is on sustainable urban development and social dimensions of urban design.

Anita Van Asperdt is a practising landscape architect and an adjunct instructor in Landscape Architecture, Architecture and the Oregon Leadership in Sustainability (OLIS) program. In addition she is the chair for the Eugene, Oregon chapter of Cascadia Green Building Council.


Housing Description

Student participants in the program will live in several housing arrangements during the course of the month in Europe. In the past, students’ accommodations have been in an Eco-District or Eco-City, or in another appropriate setting (for instance, a farmhouse on the outskirts of an urban area). Accommodations for students will include shared rooms in hostels, or other group housing accommodations. Whenever possible, the group will have access to kitchen where they will share in the preparation of meals and use mealtime as an informal continuation of the program discussion and experience. Students are responsible for their own meals and in some situations may want to rely on local grocers and/or restaurants for their meals. 


Additional Requirements

3.5 or above GPA requirement for graduate students.

Dates and Deadlines

TermYearPriority DeadlineFinal DeadlineArrival DateDeparture Date

Priority Discounts

If your program has a Priority Deadline, complete all pre-decision application materials by this date to receive a $100 credit toward your program fee. Please note, students participating in multiple summer programs are only eligible to receive the $100 credit once.

Note: this $100 discount does not apply to priority deadlines for SIT programs.

Course Equivalencies

Actual credit awarded is determined by the relevant department at your university in consultation with the study abroad office. Check with your study abroad advisor for more information.

UO students, please refer to the UO Course Equivalency Process and the UO Office of the Registrar Course Equivalency Database.