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University of Washington - College of Built Environments

    Denmark Travel Study and Interdisciplinary Master Studio Program

The University of Washington-College of Built Environments in collaboration with the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and Gehl Architects has developed a Copenhagen, Denmark based, multi-disciplinary, two+ week, travel study program.  Each September a study group comprised of up to thirty(30) University of Washington students, six(6) Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Danish students, and two(2) University of Washington professors tour Copenhagen and the Øresund region

Students gain first-hand knowledge of the methods of Gehl Architects, and have an opportunity to experience and study the vital spaces that the firm has advanced in Copenhagen so that they can apply this knowledge to their design work in the studio and in their future careers.  One week is focused on Gehl's work and influence, while the second week encompasses other examples of sustainable design in Denmark and the Øresund region.

The travel study program is a preparatory experience to the Scan|Design Foundation BY INGER & JENS BRUUN  Interdisciplinary Master Studio in which all the students are enrolled and is typically scheduled Fall Quarter.  A Gehl Architect's project manager interacts with the class for two separate weeks during the term, providing guidance on the student projects.  

For more information on this program contact   Professor Nancy Rottle.


In the kick-off year, twenty-eight (28) students studied the design outcomes of Gehl Architects' and others' work with the goal of creating better public spaces and more sustainable, humane cities. The group was led by Associate Professor Nancy Rottle and Assistant Professor Kathryn Rogers Merlino.  Gehl Architects helped to set up and host the two-week travel study program.  Students stayed primarily in Copenhagen, but there were excursions to see exemplary projects outside the city. The student travel to Denmark is a focused study of the Danish approach to creating successful public space and walkable, bikeable cities.   

Downtown Seattle 2009: Public Spaces & Public Life for Seattle's Downtown
The Green Futures Lab worked with the Copenhagen firm of Gehl Architects to develop pedestrian plans and recommendations for Seattle's downtown. Over 50 students from the Lab were trained by Gehl Architects to collect data on environmental quality and existing pedestrian use of public open space, and worked with the firm to develop design solutions for a more vibrant, pedestrian-friendly urban environment. The International Sustainability Institute of Seattle helped coordinate the efforts of the studio team, Gehl Architects, and the City of Seattle. GFL interns assisted with the production of this study while working at Gehl Architects.

The Travel Study Trip was enormously successful. The students that participated in the Travel-Study Program are profoundly enriched by the breadth and depth of experiences provided for them in Denmark, including lectures, guided tours, field exercises, and social events. They have great respect for the design examples that they witnessed. 


The students’ design work in the autumn Interdisciplinary Master Studio showed significant influence from their Fall 2008 travel-study experience and the Master Teaching of Louise Grassov from Gehl Architects.  The interdisciplinary student teams proposed bold, well-considered solutions to the challenges of designing humane, sustainable pedestrian space in Seattle, which we presented in Public Spaces | Public Life for Seattle's South Downtown a beautiful color booklet to the City of Seattle - Department of Transportation.


The 2009 Study Tour was held September 4-20, 2009.  Twenty-four (24) Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning students toured the Øresund region.  The group was led by Associate Professor Nancy Rottle, Assistant Professor Peter Cohan, and further guided by the professional staff of Gehl Architects, Copenhagen's bicycle planners, Malmö’s mayor, and designers of the innovative Western Harbor project. 

A combination of lectures and tours gave students an understanding of the historic and contemporary forces which have influenced patterns of development in Copenhagen and Malmö, sketching and analysis exercises gave them a chance to read and interpret these patterns in the urban fabric. Together, the group walked through Copenhagen’s vibrant, historic core, sketched and analyzed how the city’s great squares and streets support a dense and rich urban experience, and cycled on the city’s bike tracks to explore its regenerated neighborhoods, striking architecture, active waterways, and tranquil parks.

The group traveled to Malmö to better understand the supportive relationship these two cities have, and they gained a unique perspective on how this relationship has and will shape the character of both cities and the region itself.  They listened to the perspectives of planners, designers, and local residents on a range of issues rooted in an ethic of sustainable urban design, touching on a wide range of interlinked topics including:  community-centered ecological design solutions; low-tech green roof innovations; low impact transportation strategies; and regional network planning.

Through the experience of innovative projects, exposure to the experience and knowledge of professionals, and immersion in the daily patterns of city life, students gained valuable understanding of Danish culture and lifestyle. Students relished the uniquely Danish opportunity to explore the city by bike - many listed this as one of the highlights of the Scan|Design trip - and one student commented that “having a bicycle to travel around the city really helped me feel like I was joining in with the culture of the city and understanding the city the same way a local resident does every day.”

Final Itinerary for 2009 Travel Study Program

Public Spaces | Public Life for North Rainier Town Center
In coordination with Gehl Architects and with the support of the Scan|Design Foundation and the UW College of Built Environments, the 2010 Scan|Design Master Studio recently published a compilation of graduate student research and design. This interdisciplinary studio included students from the departments of landscape architecture, architecture, and urban planning, and was led by Professors Nancy Rottle and Kathryn Merlino with the assistance of teaching assistant Heide Martin. Bianca Hermansen of Gehl Architects acted as a visiting instructor, and Professor Peter Cohan assisted in leading a study tour to Copenhagen.


The 2010 Travel Study Tour was held September 3-19, 2010.  Seventeen Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning, Real Estate, and Civil Engineering students toured the Øresund region.  The group was led by Associate Professor Nancy Rottle and Professor Sharon Sutton and further guided by the professional staff of Gehl Architects, Copenhagen's bicycle planners, designers of the innovative Western Harbor project, and Louise Lundberg of the Scandinavian Green Roof Institute.

The group heard lectures on the cities' historical development and contemporary planning issues, became privy to design approaches taken in successful projects, and heard personal perspective on Danish ways of living.  They walked Copenhagen's pedestrian network, sketched and analyzed its public spaces and cycled on the city's separated bicycle tracks to experience its renewed neighborhoods, innovative architecture, repurposed waterfront and restorative parks and gardens.  They toured exemplary housing projects in both Denmark and Sweden with a focus on sustainable practices and closely examined the design treatment of space that contributes to urban conviviality and civic sensibility.

Several waterfronts were visited and analyzed to inspire new ideas along Seattle's waterfront.  Field exercises with Gehl Architects taught the students urban analysis methods used by this internationally-acclaimed firm, solidifying for the students its unique Danish design perspective. 

Final Itinerary for the 2010 Travel Study Program

The 2010 Interdisciplinary Master Studio was held Fall Quarter 2010.  The students benefitted from the "Master" interaction with Gehl Architects.  Gehl Associates Bianca Hermansen and Louise Grassov both worked directly with the students on design suggestions for the district and site plans.  Each also gave presentations and suggested design exercises for the students while visiting during the term.  During the visits, they both worked directly with the groups and with all students individually to help them apply Gehl's working methods and principles.

Public Spaces | Public Life for Seattle's Central Waterfront

The interdisciplinary student teams proposed bold, well-considered solutions to the challenges of designing humane, sustainable pedestrian space along Seattle's waterfront.  Their work from the term is represent in this final document.


The 2011 Travel Study Tour was held September 2-18, 2011.  Twenty-one graduate student from the University of Washington's College of Built Environments: Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning & Design studied exemplary urban and regional planning strategies in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Students were immersed for two weeks in the famous Danish networks of public space and the culture's emphasis on bicycle and pedestrian planning. 

In Copenhagen, these students were led by the renowned urban planning consultants Gehl Architects, who introduce the group to their working methods.  Other highlights included tours of redeveloped neighborhoods, the waterfront, plazas, and parks. 

After returning from the trip, the group continued working in the Scan|Design Master Studio course to study and design public spaces in Seattle's Central waterfront, with the goal of creating a socially vibrant, ecologically healthy public realm.

Public Spaces | Public Life for Seattle's Central Waterfront


Prior to the beginning of autumn quarter, twenty-three graduate students from Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning participated in the 2012 Scan|Design Foundation Travel Study Program.  The trip focused on teh urban planning, architecture, and public spaces of the Øresund region. 

The subsequent interdisciplinary studio and the mix of students shaped the diversity of the trip itinerary.  Through study of the built environment in Copenhagen, Helsignor, and Malmö, students were introduced to ideas and concepts that transcended and united the three disciplines, and encouraged a broader, multi-disciplinary approach to design.

The trip introduces the students to the public space ideas championed by Jan Gehl and Gehl Architects.  The principle that design should encourage "life between building" to improve people's quality of life and create sustainable and healthy cities was illustrated both in lecture and on the group experience.  During the trip, students were afforded the unique opportunity to study with Allison Dutoit, Bianca Hermansen, and Lars Gemzøe, founding and principle members of the internationally acclaimed Gehl Architects office. 

Public Spaces | Public Life for the University District -- West of 15th




Public Spaces | Public Life for the University District -- Urban Play


For more information on these programs:

Scan Design at UW

Scan Design Travel Study and Master Studio at the University of Washington 

US Foundation
1001 Fourth Ave. Suite 4400, Seattle, WA 98154-1192
Phone 206-892-2092 • Fax 206-389-1708
Danish Foundation
Kuhlausvej 3, 9200 Aalborg

© 2006 Scan|Design by Inger & Jens Bruun Foundation