Improving the Livable Environment in the Urban Region:
An investigation of environmental issues
in Columbus, Ohio and Dresden, Germany

Case Studies in Urban Planning for Housing
International Studies 697 (6 credit hours)
CRP 815: Topics in Housing (4 credit hours)
CRP 793: Independent Study (2 credit hours)

Maria Manta Conroy
Ohio State University
City and Regional Planning
Knowlton School of Architecture
Columbus, Ohio, USA

Spring 2002
More Columbus-Dresden syllabi

Overview | Books | Assignments | Class Schedule

  • Maria Manta Conroy (Ohio State University)

  • Dr. Bernhard Mueller (Technical University, Dresden, Germany)
    Dr. Olaf Schmidt (Technical University, Dresden, Germany)
    Dr. Thorsten Wiechmann (Technical University, Dresden, Germany)

  • and with the assistance from
  • The Planning Departments of the City of Dresden, and the City of Columbus

Classes | Discussion Topics | Trip and Return Visit | Important Notes

This year's Dresden exchange seminar will focus on Improving the Livable Environment in the Urban Region: An investigation of environmental issues in Columbus, Ohio and Dresden, Germany. The idea is to study problems that arise as development and the natural environment come into conflict.

  • The U.S. has a modern tradition of “turning over greenfields” in order to accommodate growth; we have grown outward rather than focusing on opportunities in the urban core. In so doing, many agricultural and natural areas have been devoured in favor of subdivisions, strip malls, and highways.

  • The German development tradition has been historically different, though some sprawl development has begun on the outskirts of urban areas. As open space areas become more limited, planning for their retention – or for new areas – becomes more important. Issues of access to these areas remain critical as well, especially for groups traditionally disenfranchised from green space: urban residents, the elderly, the poor, the young, and those lacking personal automobiles.

  • Finally, considerations of the biology associated with natural open space areas raise issues of regional context. We want to explore the relationships that cities in the U.S. and Germany have with the natural environment as they try to create and maintain a livable environment. In so doing, we will examine various innovative approaches that have been employed such as greenways, growth boundaries, and urban gardens, as well as policy considerations of American zoning and German regional planning.

We have the unusual opportunity of working electronically with a seminar at the Technical University of Dresden (TUD) during the quarter and then completing our work in the field by visiting Dresden in June and hosting our German colleagues in Columbus in late July/early August. The class will be conducted in English or, when German is necessary, with a translator.

The course is international in scope and, though we are in our 6th year, it remains somewhat experimental in nature. Consequently, we need to be as flexible as possible to take advantage of opportunities or to work around problems as they arise. This syllabus describes my best estimate of our situation. Please feel free to suggest changes or other ways of doing things.

During spring quarter, the class will meet at least once a week. We are scheduled to meet in Brown Hall 270 at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesdays. We may need to discuss changing the time or meeting at a different time each week to accommodate all class members. In past years, the class discovered that one day a week wasn't really enough time for the discussions and material we wanted to cover, so additional class meetings may be scheduled as necessary. At least once during the quarter I would like to have a social gathering at my home, and we may also decide to have some class meetings there. Class meetings will usually involve discussion and short presentations from myself and class members. The discussions will focus on readings, questions, and concerns from class members in either country.

Our work begins with discussions and readings about the kinds of problems that impede a livable environment. This means focusing on the land use changes and the forces initiating such changes. We will then look at solutions to problems in the American context.

During the quarter we will also try to prepare everyone as much as possible for the trip to Dresden, so class time will also be spent discussing readings on Germany and the German planning system, as well as familiarizing everyone with Dresden and its surroundings.

After spring quarter is over, we will travel to Dresden for two weeks of intensive fieldwork. The fieldwork might involve visiting developments; interviewing planning officials, developers, etc.; collecting data; doing survey work...and lots of other things. Unless you have specifically arranged it with the instructor, I expect you to make the trip with us, and for those two weeks to remain with the group, undertaking all of the activities that our hosts plan for us.

Beginning the last week in July, the TUD students will come to Columbus for field work here. I hope that everyone will be able and willing to participate actively for the two weeks they will be here. If you are working, try to arrange your schedules so that you will have time to attend our events (all day every day for two weeks). I will offer CRP 816 in the second term of summer quarter so that you can get course credit for strong participation (see details below) with the German students' visit.

For background information on Columbus and Dresden, see:

Americanization of German Cities: Case Studies in Housing (1998)

1. To take this class, you should be signed up for six (6) hours of International Studies 697 (10981-1). When grades are assigned, this will change to four (4) hours of City and Regional Planning 815 (CRP 815) and two (2) hours of CRP independent study. Jeannie Bonner is our international studies coordinator.

2. Before we go to Germany, I will ask everyone to meet with me individually. Please let me know about any special situations/conditions of which I need to be aware. For example, I need to know about chronic conditions like diabetes, fear of heights, claustrophobia, etc., in order to help arrange things so you can cope. Additionally, if you have specific tools that you need, like contact lenses or hearing aids, I need to know in case of emergencies. In general, I need to be aware of any special circumstances in order to make sure things go as smoothly and safely as possible. I will be passing out a sheet with specific questions for you to fill out later in the term.

3. Check your final exam schedule now. Then get your travel plans made as early as possible. You must be in Dresden and ready to start by 8 a.m. on Monday, June 17, 2002. I suggest you get there earlier if at all possible. We will need to know your travel plans early enough to get room reservations set up. Everyone will need a passport. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you may also need visas – be prepared to go to Germany and the Czech Republic at least.

4. Pay close attention all through the quarter for announcements, changes, information on what to take along, and a myriad of other things. Try to stay pretty flexible and prepared to roll with the punches.


Beatley, Timothy
2000. Green Urbanism. Island Press: Washington, DC.

Benfield, F. Kaid, Matthew D. Raimi, and Donald D. Chen.
1999. Once There Were Greenfields. Natural Resources Defense Council: Washington, D.C.

Daniels, Tom
1999. When City and Country Collide - Managing Growth in the Metropolitan Fringe. Island Press: Washington, D.C.

Diamond, Henry L., with Patrick Noonan.
1996. Land Use in America. Island Press: Washington, D.C.

The readings are important to form our contextual foundation and will be key for class discussions. We will read other material as well, but they will mainly be from the shelves of our conference/reference room as well as made available on the homework drive for this class. You can copy whatever you want, but I would prefer that things not leave that room except to be photocopied and returned. That will help protect the resources for other students in this class and for future classes.

Grading | Group Projects | Posters | Individual Journals | Surveys | Participation

Grading for this class is based on three deliverables – the paper (group project), journal, and poster – as well as on class participation. Please note that participation is a substantial part of the grade.

35% - Group Project
10% - Posters
15% - Individual Journal
40% - Participation

Letter grades will be based on the following scale:

A >93%; A- 90-93%; B+ 87-89%; B 84-86%; B- 80-83%; and so on.

Numerical grades will be rounded, not truncated, with values ?.5 rounding up. Assignments are graded based on a “meeting expectations” value of a B+.

Each class member will be part of a cross-national team for a group project. Depending on the size of the two classes, there may be more than two members of each class in each group. During the first ten weeks (before we travel to Germany) students will read extensively, work with their groups to write background papers, and undertake a variety of small assignments. Some of those assignments will require that the U.S. students get information from their German colleagues, and vice versa. Each group will focus on one of six topics. All of these topics will need to be more narrowly defined by the group. I am in touch with Professor Mueller to finalize the list, but at the moment it contains:
  1. What land use change is occurring in the region?
    - - - Description of recent land use change

  2. What are the driving social and economic forces behind the land use change?
    - - - Reasons for spatial growth

  3. What role do sensitive lands play in an urban setting?
    - - - Landscape and nature conservation in an urban setting

  4. Where do natural and other open spaces fit in a changing urban setting?
    - - - Open space in an urban setting

  5. How can major open space (recreation) areas be made accessible, and what impact do such options have on the environment?
    - - - Transportation and open space accessibility

  6. How can projects of regional impact inspire regional cooperation efforts for environmental protection?
    - - - Regional governance and environment

For each question, you and your German counterparts will have to narrow the focus of the question and decide what you will concentrate on for each country. During the ten-week seminar you will write a background paper on the U.S. and your German colleagues will write one on Germany.

The due date for your first draft is May 14, 2002. I will return them to you by May 21 and you will rewrite them by June 4. Each paper must be presented in both hard copy and electronic form. On June 4, you will e-mail the papers to Germany and you will e-mail a copy to me as well. The draft of the final paper from each group will be due on October 14, 2002. This paper will use the original two background papers (one from the U.S. and one from Germany) as the base, but will continue to examine various possible solutions to the problems and issues you identified and to discuss their positive and negative points. The due date for the final rewrite will depend on when I get my comments to you, but I hope it will not be later than November 11, 2002.

NOTE: Everyone will be assigned an incomplete until these papers are turned in and rewritten if requested.

During the two weeks we are in Dresden and the two weeks the German students are in Columbus, you will work in small groups to study a specific problem at a specific site in each city. The outcome of this study will be two posters, one presented at the end of the two weeks in Dresden on the German study and one presented at the end of the two weeks in Columbus on a local study.

Everyone in class will keep a journal for the entirety of the class (April – August). The document may include text, photos, drawings, materials you pick up on trips, and so on. I suggest that you keep the journal very honestly and completely for yourself, and then edit it, if you feel the need for more privacy, before you hand it in. At different times in the quarter I will give you lists of questions I’d like you to think about and answer in your journal – this may be especially useful for the video conferencing events. The purposes of maintaining a journal are to:
  1. Help you create a record of your experiences in class and on the trips so you can remember details. Finding time to write may be difficult while in Dresden, but you should make every effort anyway – maybe a small tape recorder would help. These are the things you will most want to remember.

  2. Increase the amount of information I glean from the class – every one of you will learn things that I don't during the term and this will give me a chance to pick up on those things too.

  3. Improve the class the next time it is offered. Keep a record of things that worked or didn't work, ideas you have to improve things, readings or videos you come across, etc.

  4. Do some research on the value of video conferencing and electronic communications in distance learning efforts. That's why I will give questions to answer about those experiences.

The journals will be due Sept. 30, 2002.

At various times during the term, you will be asked to complete a survey. There are 5 or 6 in total and they don't take very long to fill out. These are part of a longitudinal study started a few years ago by Dr. Morrow-Jones. The continuation of this study, and therefore your participation in it, is very important.

This is a difficult area to define, but it is crucial to the whole class's experience this quarter. I expect this class to be a major focus of your effort for the term. That means, among other things: being prepared; attending class (and other activities that we schedule); participating constructively in class discussions; volunteering for tasks that will need to be done during the quarter; being flexible; helping out wherever help is needed; and so on. The jobs that need to be done during the quarter will cover a range of skills and will also range from large to very small, so there should be plenty of opportunities for everyone to volunteer.

Ideally, everyone in class will attend all sessions, will travel to Dresden with us, and will be available in July/August to work with the Dresden students when they come here. The final aspects of the group projects cannot be completed until the Columbus field portion of the class is done – and that will happen in late July/early August.

Some examples of the kinds of tasks we'll need to get done over the course of the seminar include:
  • Scanning photos and maps and putting them up on the class web site,

  • Writing a brief biography of yourself and adding a picture so we can put those on the web site,

  • Continuing upgrades and maintenance on the web site,

  • Acting as librarian of the materials,

  • Helping with logistics for the Dresden students' visit to Columbus in July/August,

  • Keeping especially good notes on what does and doesn't work as far as course logistics, the technology, the approach – these will go in your journal (see above),

  • Volunteering for small errands, short reports, additional information gathering, or other tasks.

Keep track of what contributions you have made (I may not realize all the things you've done or forget in the rush of other things going on), and include the list as a separate page with your journal when you turn it in.

Please note that this is a proposed class schedule. We may need to modify it based upon topic interest and depth, and other factors that may arise.

April 2 Course Overview and Introduction
Journal discussion
Group topic discussion and selection
Anacker presentation
Beatley, Chapter 1
Benfield, Chapter 1
Daniels, Chapter 1
Diamond and Noonan, Chapter 1

April 9 Trip prep presentation (Jeannie Bonner, Office of International Education)
Characterization of current land use
Benfield, Chapters 2, 3
Daniels, Chapters 2, 3
Diamond and Noonan, Chapter 2

April 16 Forces behind land uses
Anacker presentation (proposed)
Beatley, Chapters 2
Benfield, Chapter 4
Daniels, Chapters 4 - 7
Diamond and Noonan, Chapters 3 – 4
Leinberger in Diamond and Noonan, pp. 203 – 222

April 23 Video Conference
Exchange of ideas about development in Germany and the U.S.

April 30 Sensitive lands in an urban setting
Anacker presentation on landscape planning
Beatley, Chapter 7
Benfield, Chapter 5
Wheeler in Diamond and Noonan, pp. 155-172

May 7 Open space in an urban setting
Beatley, Chapter 8

May 14 Video conference
Presentation on Improving the Livable Environment in the U.S.

May 21 Accessibility/transit to open space
Beatley, Chapters 4 – 6
Lighthizer in Diamond and Noonan, pp. 173 – 186

May 28 Regional environmental cooperation
Anacker presentation on eco fauna-flora rule
Beatley, Chapter 11
Daniels, Chapters 8 – 10

June 4 Trip discussion and topics review
Beatley, Chapter 13

June 11 Video Conference
Presentation on Improving the Livable Environment in Germany

June 17 - June 29 Dresden, Germany excursion*

July 29- Aug 9 Columbus, Ohio excursion*

* More details on the specific excursion schedules will be made available as the details are finalized.

[For background information on Columbus and Dresden, see:

Americanization of German Cities: Case Studies in Housing (1998) ]

This international exchange course is co-taught at Ohio State University (Columbus) and Technical University (Dresden), but the information in this syllabus applies to the Ohio State University students. These are the H-Urban versions of this course (The 1998 syllabus contains details of the Dresden and Columbus trips):

See also the Comments by Morrow-Jones on teaching these courses.

Note: Conference papers on teaching these courses were presented by the instructors at the international planning meeting in Shanghai (Summer, 2001) and at an invitational conference in Indiana on technology and international education (October, 2002).

Syllabus prepared 20 November 2002 for H-Urban Teaching Center.

Syllabus copyright 2002 Maria Manta Conroy. All rights reserved.
Permission to copy and use under "fair use" in education is granted,
provided proper credit is given.

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