A research environment to stimulate multi-disciplinary urban research
The research in Urban Studio is financed by core means from the University of Gävle and by external research grants. There are also ongoing talks with Gävle Municipality and the regional planning body of Gävleborg about collaboration in ‘on-the-ground’ projects. Around 20 researchers from various backgrounds and expertise at the University have shown interest to conduct ‘in-kind’ research, or in other ways, take part in forming a world-leading environment for the study of urban sustainability. The knowledge production draws also on expertise from national and international research networks.
The studio departs from challenges related to the UN prognosis that urban landscapes for another approx. 2.7 billion people will be built on planet Earth, approximately converting land equivalent to the size of South Africa. Such land conversion, coupled with citizen densification, pollution, increasing inequalities, shifting diets and emerging Internet technologies challenge human well-being and pose ever-increasing demand for resources generated by the biosphere.
The academic knowledge production in Urban Studio will be performed in dialogue with the discourse on socio-technological systems, where sustainability changes often are addressed through increased climate efficiency, e.g. in energy solutions, digitalization, urban design and transport. This perspective will be integrated with the social-ecological discourse with its focus on resilience building, human wellbeing and social sustainability. In this way, Urban Studio aims to develop a holistic system perspective on sustainable urban development, having the unique goal to create “bio-socio-technical solutions” for improving urban resilience while aiming for sustainability transitions with global repercussions. This framework is referred to as social-ecological urbanism.
The Urban Studio will, among others, concentrate on the various ways urbanization can promote individual well-being. The studio is also interested in supporting research that creates better understanding for how to strengthen human-environmental relations and for enabling broad-based shifts towards pro-environmental behaviour in cities. In addition, resilience analysis will be performed on smart city developments. What kinds of environmental qualities for human health promotion can urbanization include? How do we design local social-ecological systems in order to enable bonding with place and community? What kind of nudges for decreasing detrimental consumption behaviours can be actively designed in the midst of the digital revolution? How resilient are Smart City development in relation to prospected hazards associated with global environmental changes? Urban Studio thus has a compatible framework with the Sustainable Urban Development Platform in Sweden, with Stockholm Resilience Centre, with the SMOG group at Chalmers, with seveal initiatives at KTH, MOVIUM at SLU.
Young scholar involvement
The research environment of the studio will also provide a unique opportunity for young researchers, PhD students and post-docs to conduct training in interdisciplinary research. Hence, the studio will serve as a broader research platform for the next generation of young scholars to perform research on subjects related to sustainable urban development. These efforts will be strengthened through other activities happening at the University of Gävle that the project will initiate. This will give both senior and young researchers opportunities linked to Urban Studio to build networks and present research to a multidisciplinary audience.
Urban Studio will have a unique position to lead research on urban sustainability in Sweden through its rich working collaborations with slightly different but prominent national and international academic networks. The program forms part of the Social-Ecological Urbanism network in Sweden. Stephan Barthel (Director of the Urban Studio) has together with the studio’s Research Coordinator, Johan Colding, established network collaborations among the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Stockholm Resilience Centre (Stockholm University), Chalmers (SMoG), the KTH School of Architecture, and University of Gävle. This constellation constitutes a substantial academic network that comprises internationally leading researchers in urban social-ecological systems, resilience theory and spatial morphology. Another potentially key collaboration is mixing spatial analysis with urban studies geo-health. Collaboration in that field has been proposed with the BERTHA group run by Prof. Clive Sabel (Aarhus University), which is at the research frontier in the research field of geo-health. Enrolled is a vinnova research project in this field is Katarina Wijk, at Gävleborg regional planning, department of research and development. This potential collaboration may be lubricated by FPX and Gävle Innovation Arena, offering networking skills. Linked to the field of geo-health; the studio will also collaborate with psychological studies on urban sustainability performed at Aalto University in Finland (Prof. Marketta Kyttä), and with the National Area Group for Environmental Psychology including IBF at Uppsala University (Prof. Terry Hartig).
It will also collaborate with international researchers in urban social-ecological systems at e.g. at Arizona State University, Gothenburg University, Humboldt University, Berlin, Göttingen University, Leuphania University, Universitat Internacional de Catalunya, University of Freiburg, Cornell University, Nottingham University, New School, NYC, and at SLU. Each one of these partners will also bring active international academic networks of the highest rank.
Collaboration with actors outside academia
The interdisciplinary research program at Urban Studio will amplify contacts with stakeholders outside academia. This will be an important trans-disciplinary methodology in itself by way of “co-creation” and “research by design”. Researchers in Urban Studio attempt to have ongoing collaborations with the Gävle municipality. In the area of Geo-health initiated discussions about potential areas of mutual interest are underway with FPX and the Gävle Innovation Arena. There are also signed agreements with with Region Gävleborg on the theme "smart, sustainable cities and communities".