European Cities and Sustainable Urban Planning Practices

Planning Study Abroad / Summer 2017 / Jesus J. Lara

Images of European cities taken for the travel abroad course, CRPLAN 5798

The diverse approaches to planning, urban design, and development found in Northwestern Europe were the focus of the international study program for summer 2017. The physical and social structure of cities and redevelopment projects were analyzed to understand historical precedents, cultural differences, and planning/design priorities. The course took an in-depth look at four major European cities and other sites of interest in four separate countries that have made a conscious and comprehensive effort to become more “sustainable” in a variety of ways.

The course addressed the general principles of sustainability and then examined in the field how some of these principles have been put into practice. Participants not only gained an understanding of the planning, design, and function of the European cities but discussed and analyzed how applicable these approaches and technologies might be for U.S. urban areas (especially applied to Midwestern U.S. urban centers). In other words, “what would it take” for communities in the U.S. to follow these models.

In addition, the class also involved considerable discussion about what participants saw in these cities (and hearing from lectures), to what degree these innovations are sustainable (and why), and whether any of these ideas are transferable to the U.S. This program offered a unique opportunity for students interested in design, planning, and urban sustainability with a truly international scope. The content of this program was intended to have global relevance and an international perspective that covers the environmental, social, cultural, economic, and physical dimensions of sustainability.