NMP in Sustainable Urban Transitions

Education Content

Nordic Master Programme in Sustainable Urban Transitions (NMP SUT) is a Nordic double degree master programme running the Nordic Five Tech (N5T) collaboration. N5T is an exclusive, strategic alliance of the five leading technical universities in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden: Aalto University (Aalto), Chalmers University of Technology (Chalmers), Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). The goal of the N5T alliance is to utilize shared and complementary strengths and create synergy within education, research and innovation.

NMP SUT provides integrated knowledge development and capacity building to young professionals in the field sustainable urban transitions. This is achieved through inter-/trans disciplinary competence building developing capacities to

a) understand principles of human settlements,

b) engage in new and shared knowledge production and problem-solving and

c) develop improved practices contributing to positive urban change.

The focus of NMP SUT is on sustainable urban development, but within different fields of application at the five participating universities:

  • Aalto – Human-oriented living environments – combining the creative disciplines of architecture, design, media, and the arts
  • Chalmers – Local socio-spatial dynamics and citizen involvement in sustainable urban and neighbourhood transitions
  • DTU – Planning, innovation and management of the built environment – in a socio-technical perspective
  • KTH – Collaborative city networks and multi-scalar governance for sustainable urban and regional development
  • NTNU – Towards sustainable livelihoods, land-use and urban infrastructure through formal and informal planning processes at local and city levels

 

Together, these different fields of application forms a new joint subject area: planning and design for Sustainable Urban Transitions, where systems thinking, participative and scenario approaches, risk reduction, research by design and generative planning are key concepts. Within this subject area, the aims of the programme are to:

  • Provide opportunities for joint learning and understanding of urban planning, design and management as highly complex transition processes, laden with both short-term and long-term uncertainties.
  • Support integrated learning and capacity building targeting the variety of involved professionals.
  • Show how sociotechnical systems theory, participative and scenario approaches, area-based planning and practice-based research are key concepts in sustainable urban transitions.
  • Provide opportunities for learning in different contexts (North and South) and fields of application at the five participating universities, exploiting the strong complementary specialties of the N5T partners to foster highly qualified candidates for public administration, industry and research within sustainable urban transitions.

The programme is active at four different levels of urban transitions: individual inhabitants/users, neighbourhoods, infrastructural systems, and urban regions. These levels are represented by the programme’s five study tracks and the learning outcomes differ depending on study track.

2014 five study tracks

Kuva 1. The five study tracks and nine mobility patterns for students with different academic backgrounds. (Study track 4 - Transitions of Urban Structures is not available for students in architecture)

Learning Outcomes

Study Track 1: Human Oriented Urban Transitions

In this track, the starting point and perspective is the human being – or rather, the multiplicity and diversity of human beings with their different needs and aspirations, different cultures and social arrangements, and different ways of making their life-world meaningful and communicating with each other.

The ambition of the track Human Oriented Urban Transitions is to take seriously this multi-dimensional and interdisciplinary challenge of starting from the human being and developing the built environment and the relevant policies and management around this conception. It will require understanding of the relevant human and social sciences, but it will also call for a practical approach, using the local resources, human capital and cultural imagination to fuel sustainable transitions.

After completing this study track the candidate should:

Knowledge and understanding

  • understand the basic characteristics of human beings in their social and cultural context
  • understand the dynamics of urban change, being able to observe, describe and analyse existing conditions and their potential to change

Competence and skills

  • manage urban planning and development processes, including the communication and collaboration between different stakeholders
  • have familiarized with the necessary conceptual framework to read and critically assess urban theorization and empirical research
  • be able to use relevant literature, gather and analyse relevant information, argue convincingly for their suggestions, and illustrate their ideas visually through urban and architectural design
  • master the relevant technical skills and be able to acquire knowledge of the legal and institutional framework in which they are operating in

Judgement, synthesis and reflection

  • have the critical ability and attitude of an urban expert, at the same time as they will have high ethical standards in terms of urban justice, equal opportunities and environmental protection
  • be able to act in uncertain and complex circumstances
  • be able to initiate scientific research and participate in doctoral programs in their field.

 

Study Track 2: Area Based Transitions

The area-based approach to urban transitions involves careful study and consideration of local circumstances, predispositions and capacities for adaptation to local and global challenges in relation to sustainable urban development. While sustainable development concerns originate from increasing global problems, urban design and planning must be developed in local situations that differ significantly between, as well as within, different regions of the world. The search for viable sustainable development strategies and solutions must, therefore, increasingly be carried out through dialogue, cooperation and collaboration between and amongst local inhabitants and professionals from a variety of fields

After completing this study track the candidate should:

Knowledge and understanding

  • Describe and relate to the global vision of sustainable development
  • Identify its meaning and complex interplay with local urban circumstances and processes of urban transitions
  • Review and explain approaches, tools and techniques for understanding and addressing local conditions
  • Understand different professional roles for mediation between local and global challenges in sustainable urban transitions

Competence and skills

  • Be able to use different analytical approaches, tools and techniques in different local areas and adapt them to distinct social, cultural, political and physical local contexts
  • Be able to plan and/or design strategies and solutions for sustainable urban transitions
  • Be able to visualize and communicate different proposals for stakeholders, clients and experts in different stages of the planning and design process
  • Be able to motivate different proposals with reference to scientific and experience-based, knowledge

Judgement, synthesis and reflection

  • To critically compare and assess the quality of different knowledge sources and statements concerning sustainable urban transitions and be able to combine and apply these to complex local conditions
  • Be able to combine different approaches to planning and design (such as scientific, experience-based and artistic)
  • Be able to assess strategies and solutions for sustainable urban transitions anchored in value-based arguments
  • Reflect on the role of planning and design in the mediation between local and global challenges when applied in different contexts
  • To embrace critical thinking and reflection on the professional role, the professional ethics and the need for life-long learning in a world of uncertainties and emerging challenges
  • To understand their own, individual perspective and its limitations, through engagement and dialogue with other professional and cultural perspectives on sustainable urban development

 

Study Track 3: Urban Ecology

This study track offers first the students insight into the urban south, and addresses its realities through method, practice and theory building based on community strength and potentials. The second year addresses the Nordic setting also targeting citizens’ empowerment and real participation. There are also efforts to build further interdisciplinary knowledge necessary to address complex urban situations in efforts towards urban sustainable transitions. However, for the master thesis the students have both the possibility to return to the urban south or to the Nordic situation.

The cross fertilization between south and north, and also the Nordic countries and their diversities, challenges the students in their theory, methods, planning strategies and ethics.  The study track responds to the students urge towards becoming relevant practitioners.

After completing this study track, the candidate should have:

Knowledge and understanding

  • Knowledge of two specific, underprivileged neighbourhoods (one in a developing country, the other in a Nordic country), their territorial strength in terms of organisation, resources, skills and access to land, but also their struggle, and changing livelihood conditions.
  • Experience in how to address both non-planned and planned neighbourhoods in urban centres and fringe areas for the purpose of livelihood improvements, tenure security and urban upgrading in contexts of conflicts of objectives of equity, environmental sustainability and civil society interests.
  • Understanding of specific cases of building strategic responsibility and action at higher levels of urban governance and management in terms of  ‘scaling up’ local development initiatives.

Abilities and skills

  • Knowledge of integrated action planning and integrated local planning processes building both on local defined priorities and local ownership and higher levels strategic action.
  • Competence in applying, examining and analysing participative tools.
  • Ability to use geographical information systems (GIS) as an important tool in urban mapping, planning and management.

Judgement, synthesis and reflection

  • Awareness of the struggle of the urban poor in terms of entitlements to land, work, and participation in the civil society, and overall livelihood improvements.
  • Understanding of what are contextual and general issues in local and higher level urban transition in both developing and Nordic countries as well as their localised and interrelated nature.
  • Knowledge on the interface and the potential conflicts between targeted strategies addressing urban poverty and urban environmental strategies.

 

Study Track 4: Transitions of Urban Structures (Not available for students in architecture)

 

Study Track 5: Urban Regional Transitions

In this track, urban regional interactions will be addressed as a means for urban development at the local and regional level. A core issue is to provide students with a deeper understanding of alternative strategies for creating competitive sustain­able urban regions. The prerequisites to succeed depend on many factors, such as the institutional context, political commitment, supranational policies (e.g. EU), existing socio-economic structures and relations with other regions, which define the context for governance and coordinated action.

Other issues that will be covered are among others the dynamics of retail and service provision, labour markets and infrastructure development. In addition, the cultural, environmental and social determinants will be studied as carriers of sustainable urban and regional development.

After completing this study track the candidate should:

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate knowledge on the theoretical concepts and foundations in urban and regional planning, sustainable development and governance.
  • Demonstrate in-depth knowledge on the processes that contribute to urban change, the actors taking part in these processes as well as the societal, economic and environmental determinants that further sustainable urban transition.
  • Demonstrate specialised knowledge on the tools and methods that can be applied to analyse the conditions and prerequisites for urban transition.
  • Demonstrate a sound understanding of the relation between theory and practice in urban planning and regional development, as well as of the linkages to other disciplines involved in the transition process at the local, regional and global level.

Competence and skills

  • Be able to assess and manage complex problems and challenges regarding urban and regional development and planning taking into account the societal, economical, environmental and political context.
  • Demonstrate the ability to identify and formulate issues critically, autonomously and creatively as well as to plan and, using appropriate methods, undertake advanced tasks within predetermined time frames and so contribute to the formation of knowledge as well as the ability to evaluate this work.
  • Be able to make effective oral and written presentations of complex tasks related to urban development using modern techniques and tools to illustrate and visualise plans, concepts and strategies.
  • Be able to lead and work in multidisciplinary groups and contribute to the outcome of the working task.

Judgement, synthesis and reflection

  • Be able to analyze the merits of theoretical concepts, policies, plans and projects based on a comprehensive assessment.
  • Be able to detect implicit assumptions in theoretical and societal views on planning problems.
  • Demonstrate the ability to contextualize planning objectives and policies in different timely, cultural and institutional backgrounds.
  • Be able to develop their own opinion on the nature and manner of dealing with new planning problems
  • Demonstrate the ability to identify the personal need for further knowledge and take responsibility for his or her ongoing learning.

Degree structure of the programme

NMP SUT - Study Track 1  (1st year at Aalto University, 2nd year at Chalmers)

Degree in Architecture -  study track 1

120

Sustainable Urban Transitions,studies at Aalto University

  • The studies are completed at Aalto University (see table 3).

60

Sustainable Urban Transitions, studies at the partner university

  • The studies are completed at the partner university (Chalmers), within the framework of its course offering. The course offering varies by year.

30

Master’s Thesis

  • The master's thesis is done at the partner university (Chalmers). The topic of the work is Urban Planning and Design.

30

 

NMP SUT - Study Track, 2nd, 3rd and 5th years  (1st year at Chalmers, NTNU or KTH, 2nd year at Aalto University)

Modules

Credits

Degree in Architecture  -  study track 2, 3 and 5

120

Sustainable Urban Transitions, studies at the partner university

Completed at the partner university within the framework of its course offering. The course offering varies by university and year.

  • Study Track 2 = Chalmers
  • Study Track 3 = NTNU
  • Study Track 5 = KTH

60

Sustainable Urban Transitions,studies at Aalto University

  • The studies are completed at Aalto University (see table 3).

30

Master’s Thesis

  • The thesis is done at Aalto University. The topic of the work is Urban Planning and Design.

30

 

NMP SUT Master's Degree Programme studies at Aalto University

Course code

Name

Credits

Compulsory courses

 

ARK-E5002

Urban Laboratory I, Studio

10

A-36.3701

Urban Laboratory II (Studio)

  • Master's Degree Programme Study Track 1:  the course is completed in the spring of the first year
  • Master's Degree Programme, Study Track 2, 3 and 5: the course is integrated with the master's thesis in the second year.

10

Alternative courses

 

All individual courses that are eligible for the NMP-SUT programme are accepted as alternative studies, within the framework of the course offering in English. On a case-specific basis, approved studies from Aalto University's other degree programmes and schools can also be accepted in the student's personal study plan (HOPS). Some examples:

 

ARK-E5001

Possible Cities

10

ARK-E5501

Urban Renewal, Studio

10

ARK-E5502

Wooden Town, Studio

10

 

Planning in Emerging Nations - Studio + PEN Theory (the course may change)

10 + 5

ARK-E5505

Sustainable Urban Design - Studio

10

ARK-L5000

Planning Theory and Urban Studies

5

ARK-E5000

Methodology

5

 

Planning in Emerging Nations - Theory (Note: compulsory if Planning in Emerging Nations is selected as a studio) (the course may change)

5

ARK-E5003

Urban Planning and Design, Special project

1-10

ARK-E5004

Urban Planning and Design, Studio with varying themes

1-10

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