Sustainable Cities and Landscapes in the Galapagos

Language Requirement: None
Academic Standing by Program Start: Sophomore
Location: Americas, Ecuador
GPA: 2.5
Program Overview

This program is near full enrollment and has started a waitlist.

This 21-day program in Quito and the Galapagos Islands, provides a unique learning experience for students interested in urban planning, architecture, and environmental conservation. It's designed to deepen the understanding of the complex socio-ecological system of cities and landscapes using the Galapagos as a case study and explore how it might be impacted by the looming climate crisis.

The program begins in Quito and then the group flies together to San Cristobal in the Galapagos islands for the remainder of the program. The main campus is located near Playa Mann on San Cristobal Island. Students will live with host families while in the Galapagos.

The academics will be divided into workshops, excursions, and lectures. The focus is on the intricate relationship between urban development and natural ecosystems, emphasizing sustainable practices in city planning and landscape architecture. Students will delve into the unique social and environmental interactions exclusive to the islands.

  • Fieldwork to gather information and understand the human-built form and natural environment interaction.
  • Development of proposals challenging current socio-ecological interactions, aiming to mitigate the effects of climate change and human depredation.
  • Lectures on the Galapagos' unique conservation management and global concepts in architecture and urban planning linked to nature preservation.

This program is built in close collaboration between the University of San Francisco de Quito, and the University of Oregon’s APRU Sustainable Cities and Landscapes Hub. The Sustainable Cities and Landscapes Hub exists under the umbrella of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities, a network of leading research universities from around the Pacific Rim.

Program ScholarshipApplicants to this program have the option to apply for a program-specific scholarship. Award recipients are chosen based on academic merit, financial need, and overall quality of their essay. Individual awards range from $500 - $1,000. To be considered, the Scholarship Essay must be completed by February 15th. Please refer to the Scholarship Essay instructions in the program application or speak with your GEO advisor for more details.

Dates and Deadlines
Term Year Deadline Arrival Date Departure Date
Summer 2024 3/15/2024 6/18/2024 7/8/2024

Discount for Pell Recipients

To expand access to study abroad, GEO is offering a $400 discount for this program (Summer 2024 and beyond) to UO students who currently have the Pell Grant as part of their federal financial aid (FAFSA).

Academic Details


  • Landscape Architecture Students (LA 488/588): Participants from the Landscape Architecture program can earn 6 University of Oregon credits through this course. These credits are applicable towards a 400/500 level studio course in their program.

  • Public Policy, Planning, and Management Students (PPPM 488/588): Students in the Public Policy, Planning, and Management program can enroll in this course for 6 University of Oregon credits.

  • Environmental Design (ENVD 488): Students in the ENVD program can enroll in this course for 6 University of Oregon credits. The ENVD department will work with each student to figure out how it will work with their track choice.

  • Environmental Studies and Environmental Science (ENVS/ESCI 488/588): Students in the ENVS or ESCI majors or ENVS minor can enroll in this course for 6 University of Oregon credits. These credits will count as one Area 3B Design Foundation course. Graduate students should reach out to the ENVS Director of Graduate Studies to discuss how this will count towards their degree.
  • Architecture: The Department of Architecture recognizes this studio course as a valuable life and educational experience. While it will not fulfill any studio course requirements for the Architecture major, it provides students with an opportunity to expand their knowledge and skills in complementary areas. Participants can receive upper-division elective credit and should meet with an academic advisor prior to confirming attendance to determine how these credits would best satisfy University and Department requirements.

Course taught in English.

The Galapagos Studio is an academic endeavor that takes into consideration urban growth in protected natural areas, using the Galapagos Archipelago as a case study. The Galapagos Islands are one of the most delicate natural areas in the world, declared a natural heritage site by UNESCO in 1978 for its outstanding universal value. Declared the first tourist destination by USA Today magazine, it is a place that is undergoing a process of urbanization that expands every year. The aim of the studio is to research the role that the built environment plays in the process of nature preservation, considering the border conditions between colonized areas, urban and rural areas, and protected areas. Working directly with local governments, the studio proposes different approaches as options for the processes that urban settlements are currently following.

The studio takes place for a couple of days in Quito, the capital of Ecuador and the first Cultural Heritage of the world, and the rest of the time in the Galapagos Islands. The studio includes three weeks of master classes with invited professors from recognized universities, conferences given by experts in the fields of biology, ecology, and conservation of the Galapagos, city tours in the islands, walking tours to natural tourist areas, and all the digital and paper information needed for the proper development of the course.

Students will be confronted with the task of a proposal-based research; experimentation must not come from personal, philosophical, or ethical interpretations but must be of a general nature, useful for the social and natural environment of the Galapagos and follow a precise and systematic procedure. The course will follow a studio format in which students collaborate to explore potential solutions to a given problem. Proposals will be discussed with the professor, and the entire group will collectively explore various alternatives to identify the most efficient ones.

Course Objectives:

  • To understand the significance of the built environment and spatial design in a vulnerable natural ecosystem.
  • To respect the natural environment in terms of urbanity, architecture, culture, and the day-to-day way of life.
  • To collaborate among a group of individuals with diverse cultural and geographic backgrounds and experiences.
  • To address contexts and environments different from what one is normally accustomed to.
  • To propose design solutions to address socio-ecological problems in one of the most delicate natural areas in the world.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Detect and analyze the factors that unbalance the relationships between urban spaces and protected natural areas.
  • Develop awareness of the impact produced by urban settlements adjacent to protected natural areas.
  • Develop unconventional alternatives to improve relationships between the ecosystem and the inhabitants of the islands.
  • Develop capabilities to research and work in a multidisciplinary manner with groups of different professional and academic backgrounds.

The workshop includes a reference introduction to the Galápagos context, consisting of shared documents, videos, and lectures given by specialists in the urban and natural context of the islands. Subsequently, exercises approaching the urban environment of the two most populated islands in the archipelago will be proposed. Finally, the work done by students will be presented to the island community and Galápagos authorities.

Course Equivalencies

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

Non-UO students: 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.

Additional requirements
Students from any major and any level in their academic degree program are encouraged to participate.
Application process

This program has a rolling admission application process: GEO staff (and the program faculty leader, if applicable) will complete a review of the application materials of complete applications in the order that they are submitted (“first come, first serve”). Decisions about acceptance will be made shortly after you submit a complete application. There are some programs that fill fast, some even before the deadline. Students are encouraged to complete applications and commit to programs early.

Acceptance is based on a holistic review of your application.  This includes a review of your GPA, transcripts (including courses taken and in-progress), any additional requirements or prerequisites (see section "Additional Requirements"), and the short statement.

Faculty and Staff

Professor Jaime López is an architect who graduated from the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) in 2001. He earned his MSc in Architecture at TU Delft in The Netherlands in 2009 and obtained a Doctorate in Architectural Projects from the Polytechnic University of Catalunya (UPC) in 2022. His doctoral thesis focuses on researching the interaction between urban morphology and the physical geography of natural protected spaces, using the Galápagos archipelago as a case study. Jaime is the founder of the international architecture studio in the Galapagos Islands, which initiated research on human settlements in the Galápagos from a design perspective. He currently serves as the director of the Architecture and Urban Form Research Institute (AFORU) at USFQ and as the community outreach coordinator for the School of Architecture. Additionally, Jaime works as a private consultant in urban and regional planning for both public and private institutions.

Professor Yizhao Yang is a Professor at the School of Planning, Public Policy, and Management at the University of Oregon. Dr. Yang’s work focuses on urban sustainability through applied research, community-engaged teaching, and services. Her research addresses the relationships between the environment and people’s behavior and well-being. She also studies global sustainable urban planning and design, particularly in countries in East Asia and North America, contributing to the global discourse on place-making knowledge and practices. Dr. Yang is committed to advancing sustainable urban development worldwide. She is an active member of the University of Oregon’s Sustainable Cities Institute (SCI) and a member of the Sustainable Cities and Landscapes Hub for the Association of Pacific Rim Universities. Additionally, she provides instruction at the Asia-Pacific Mayors Academy organized by UNESCAP. Professor Yang holds a Bachelor of Architecture (1995) from Tianjin University, China; Master’s in Building Science (1998) from Tsinghua University, China, and Master’s (2001) and Ph.D. (2007) degrees in Urban and Regional Planning from Cornell University.

Housing Description

Shared hotel rooms in Quito.

Host families in San Cristobal.