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Rethink the City: New Approaches to Global and Local Urban Challenges

Delft University of Technology via edX

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Learn about today’s urban challenges focusing on developing countries, referred to as the Global South. We will debate the benefits associated with three different themes, going beyond traditional urban strategies and policies:

  1. Spatial justice: Spatial justice is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges of urban contexts in emerging economies.
  2. Housing Provision and Management: Increasing demand in the Global South calls for alternative approaches in housing provision and management.
  3. Urban Resilience: Understanding resilience not as a mere struggle for survival, but as an opportunity to build better urban environments.
In the course, we will address questions such as:
  • Is the ‘just city’ framework applicable to cities with extreme socio-economic inequality?
  • Can community-led housing initiatives provide effective solutions for households in need?
  • How can resilience support development instead of perpetuating a disadvantaged condition?
In this architecture and urban planning course, academic urban planning expertise from TU Delft is used to formulate possible answers to these questions, and is applied in a range of challenging case studies from Ghana, Brazil, Malaysia, Chile, and China, among others. This course offers you a new perspective to understand and analyze the urban challenges of the Global South.

Through a combination of short theoretical lessons, presentation of case studies, testimonies from practitioners and practical assignments you will also learn how to develop a critical perspective about your own urban environment and how to translate this knowledge into analytical tools and innovative urban solutions.

Urban Challenges in Africa
In addition, the course offers you a module focused on the specific urban challenges of the African continent. We will apply the three themes to different cases in this region and explore these with professionals working on the ground.

Two course participants (one from Sub-Saharan Africa and another one from any other region in the world) will be granted a scholarship to travel to Delft to participate in the 2018 Summer School “Planning and Design with Water”. These scholarships, sponsored by the Rethink the City MOOC and the organizers of the Summer School, will cover the tuition fees, travel costs to the Netherlands and costs of board and lodging in Delft during the summer school. The selection criteria for this prize are available on the course syllabus.

AESOP Excellence in Teaching Award 2017 
At the annual conference of AESOP (Association of European Schools of Planning) the Architecture MOOC "Rethink the City: New approaches to Global and Local Urban Challenges" received the Excellence in Teaching Award 2017.


This course is an instructor-paced course, structured in three modules. During the seven weeks, students can explore the different modules according to their own plan. The course is then structured as follows:
Week 1: Introduction
General introduction and course structure. Plan your course and your ‘critical thinking’ assignment, where you will have to upload a picture identifying the urban challenge you think it is most important to your city.
Week 2 to week 4: Modules
The three modules are presented following the same steps:

  • First: Introducing the theory by providing a contemporary perspective of the urban topic and main concepts.
  • Second: Applying the theory by presenting three case studies.
  • Third: Challenging the theory by presenting the experience of a practitioner in each field. 

The three modules are:

  1. Spatial Justice. This part of the course aims to analyze concrete cases of spatial justice and injustice in emerging economies and how contemporary theories apply there. It seeks to shift the attention given in the last few years to issues of spatial justice in the Global North, to issues of spatial justice in the booming metropolises of the South, where spatial fragmentation and inequality are extreme.
  2. Housing Provision and Management. This section will review the opportunities for alternative approaches in housing provision and management in the context of China, Ghana and Chile. Some topics of interest are social innovation in housing, collaborative housing approaches, community self-organization and the role of the third sector in housing policies. 
  3. Urban Resilience. One can say that communities on the emerging world are more resilient, since they face more complex social, economic and environmental challenges than the Global North. Nevertheless, it is imperative to go beyond that simplistic idea of struggling for survival. Emerging economies offer a fertile ground to conduct research on how to use these complex threats as an opportunity to build better urban environments. These section of the course will shed some light on case studies of resilience that applies alternative approaches on the topic. 

Week 5 and 6: Final assignment
The final assignment is aimed at developing a critical approach towards the issues, theories and contexts presented during the course.

Rethink the City Prize - Selection criteria:
- participation on the forum
- quality of the practical assignments
- originality and critical perspective of the final assignment
- motivation letter

Taught by

Dominic Stead, Roberto Rocco, Darinka Czischke Ljubetic, Luz Maria Vergara d’Alençon and Igor Pessoa

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