The new students taking the international master’s programme “Science for Sustainable Development” found themselves in close contact with reality, in Linköping’s newest and most sustainable residential district, Vallastaden. When Anna Kaijser and Veronica Brodén Gyberg were planning the first course “Critical Perspectives on Sustainable Development”, they decided to use Vallastaden as an example on which to base the discussion of sustainable development and planning in a Swedish context. They would then compare this with the situations in other countries where the opportunities and challenges are different.
“This is an interesting case in which we can study sustainable development in a relatively wealthy context such as Sweden,” says course manager Anna Kaijser.
Is Vallastaden interesting in itself, as a residential district, or is it the ongoing exhibition?
“Well, it’s both. What is expressed by the exhibition is a vision of sustainability that the organisers want to share. The question is: ‘Who for?’ There is more than one right answer.”
Most of the 22 students on the programme are international students, but there are some Swedish students who have taken the Environmental Science programme. They are distributed around three circular tables in the university’s Active Learning Classroom, or ALC, a test facility in which LiU’s teachers can hold classes during the exhibition. As the name suggests, the intention of the room is that students be more active in the learning process. Experience from the test facility will be drawn on when designing future teaching facilities at LiU.
Reflections and impressions
Photo credit: Charlotte PerhammarThe students around the circular tables have been asked to discuss and compare what ‘sustainability’ can mean in various contexts, using Vallastaden and five case studies as examples: New York, the small village Sere in Uganda, Malmö, La Paz in Bolivia, and Ljubljana in Slovenia. Screens are available at each table to display images, websites and other material. They will continue working with the cases after the workshop, identifying challenges and solutions in topics such as water supply and transport.
“Holding the class here in Vallastaden had an effect on the way in which we organised the course,” says Anna Kaijser. “Here, it’s possible to reflect in another manner, and the students receive impressions that they otherwise would not have received.”
Vernoica Brodén Gyberg adds her views. “It wasn’t strictly necessary to hold the class in the ALC, and – to be honest – we didn’t have time to master fully all of the technical equipment and new aspects of teaching that the classroom offered. But the exhibition certainly gave us an opportunity to develop our teaching, with respect to both content and form. After this year’s initial trial, we can see opportunities for further development next year.”
A site for deeper discussions
Photo credit: Charlotte PerhammarAmanda Selhammer is one of the Swedish students taking the programme. She is in a group working with Vallastaden, and she herself has just moved into Vallastadsvåningen (Valla Living Quarter), a new concept for student accommodation from Studentbostäder.
“Everything worked well today. I think the discussions are deeper when you can link them to something you see and have experienced, being there on site.”
Anna Blume from Germany likes the wide range of buildings, cultures and accommodation for different ages offered by Vallastaden.
“I hope they organise activities here that enable people to get to know each other. It can become a small community where everyone knows, or at least recognises, everyone else. Maybe a quiz ramble would be a good idea.”
Anna Blume continues: “The workshop today was productive. I believe that being here on site adds something to the discussions. But the classroom was a bit too noisy: the floors and tables didn’t have sound absorption. But I like being able to see out of the windows, and that the classroom is filled with daylight.”