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Release: Immediate

UI course takes students to Europe to learn about sustainable urban development

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Seven University of Iowa students and their professor will spend the three-week UI summer term touring four European cities to study aspects of urban planning.

Jim Throgmorton, associate professor of urban and regional planning, is teaching the class, which he calls the "sustainable cities tour." The object is for the four undergraduate and three graduate students in the class to see firsthand the ways in which cities outside the United States give practical meaning to the concept of "sustainability."

Sustainability is a term used in urban planning that means meeting a city's present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, Throgmorton said. Before leaving for Europe, the students will spend two days studying sustainability as it is understood in Iowa City.

"The object of this course is to do comparative work to allow students to learn 'sustainability' means, practically, in each of five cities," Throgmorton said.

The European cities on the tour are: Leicester, England; Aalborg, Denmark; Freiburg, Germany; and La Rochelle, France. After the first two days of study in Iowa City, the students will spend about three days in each of the four European cities. In Europe, they will travel between cities by train.

Throgmorton said he chose the four European cities for several reasons, including their size, access to local universities, and their efforts in regard to sustainability. All four cities have a population between 75,000-300,000 and are university towns, Throgmorton said, which allows for a reasonable comparison with Iowa City.

In addition, each city has taken a different approach to sustainability, he said. For example, Leicester has just been named the first "Environment City" in England, a designation it earned for its efforts to develop as an urban region while maintaining a sound environment. And Freiburg is widely-recognized for its successful efforts to reduce the number of people who travel exclusively by car.

"The students will be studying the particular qualities these urban areas are trying to sustain and determining how local contexts shape each community's efforts," Throgmorton said. Then the students will address the question of what aspects of the European models could be applied to urban planning in Iowa City or, on a larger scale in the Midwest or throughout the U.S.

The three-week course runs from May 18-June 8. The group leaves for Europe Wednesday, May 20. For more information, contact Throgmorton at (319) 335-0037.