Getting our Cities Right #2: Summaries of presentations

Last changed: 04 November 2022
A man holding a book on a stage.

The conference on the 5th of October 2022 included two keynote sessions, an expert panel, a book launch and site visits. A total of 19 people participated on stage.

Further down on this page you will find summaries of the presentations and the book launch. (Click on the titles.)

If you are interested in the slides shared by the keynote speakers during the conference, please contact


New roles of universities in urban (innovation) environments - Michael Bossert

First of our keynote speakers was Michael Bossert, scientific research manager of CERC Smart, Sustainable and Resilient Communities and Cities at the Université Concordia, Montréal, Canada. He is co-author of The University Campus as a Living Lab for Sustainability A Practitioner’s Guide and Handbook.

In his presentation New roles of universities in urban (innovation) environments he portrayed highlighted some of the most pressing urban challenges that society faces now and in the future. Cities contribute to almost 80% of the world’s energy consumption and produce more than 60% of the world’s greenhouse emissions, despite only accounting for less than 2% of the surface area of the Earth. This is a fact that further underlines the importance of the over-arching theme of this conference series and the quote by the UN-Habitat’s Executive Director: “The future of our planet depends on getting our cities right”. Universities as key players in the urban setting, therefore, play an important role in this endeavor.  In many ways, universities can be seen as a micro-city system. They bring together a diversity of people through education, research and operational activities; and work towards more long-term goals in comparison to other private and public sector actors. Most importantly, universities educate the leaders of the future; and it is, therefore, essential they equip students and professionals with the knowledge and skills to address the complexity of sustainability challenges. All of this suggests that the university campus is a promising and suitable test bed for applying a Living Lab approach, using a transdisciplinary framework in line with the quintuple helix model and a focus on co-creation and collaboration rather than competition.

Michael has practical experience working with a holistic Living Lab approach from HTF Stuttgart in Germany where he showed examples of how they have worked with experiments generated from the Campus hub, e.g. connected to energy consumption and transport/logistics, and also from starting up a similar system at Concordia. They are currently in the process of getting people and initiatives on board and once that has been achieved the next steps include: developing a governance structure, establishing a leadership team, defining a communication strategy, and – most importantly – developing a financial strategy. Michael emphasizes the importance of selling the idea of the campus as a living lab and leading the way by being the first.

A digital version of the book The University Campus as a Living Lab for Sustainability can be found and downloaded here: new_RZ_Living_Lab_handbook_9.5.19.pdf (

Towards a Sustainable Campus: developing a living lab landscape for experimentation and co-creation - Tom McDevitt

The second speaker of the day was Tom McDevitt who is a project leader for UULabs a Living Labs initiative at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. In 2015 the Green Office was established as a way to connect students to consultancy work and to conduct research while working with sustainability challenges at the campus. The approach has thus far resulted in the identification of more than 150 research questions, as well as actual on-site changes such as building renovations, emissions reports, and waste separation systems. While the number of projects and involvement can be seen as proof of success it has not been a process without challenges. Coordinating parallel timelines, participants being unfamiliar with what they find to be an unconventional process, and managing to find valuable researcher time remain some of the central challenges. Key factors for the de facto success have been the fact that the UULabs has been able to create such a strong network; and having a clear mandate from the university board. They have additionally managed to connect their work to the sustainability goals that the university has taken upon itself to work towards.

As of the conference, there were 26 different ongoing Living Lab projects taking place within the Utrecht Science Park at Utrecht University, some of which have distinct connections to previous Living Labs, which now have been successfully scaled up.

For more information please visit: UULabs - Utrecht University

TU-StadtManufaktur platform for Living Labs in Berlin - Anja Steglich

Anja Steglich was our third keynote speaker at the conference. She is a landscape architect and an expert on urban transformation and transfer, and a coordinator of StadtManufaktur at the Technische Universität Berlin (TUB), Germany.

In her presentation, she proposed that there is an image of Berlin as a hub for creativity and transformation. She argued that this idea can be canalized and tapped into for Living Labs-related research approaches and as such Berlin can, in some ways, be interpreted as a full-scale real-world laboratory in itself. Through the work of StadtManufaktur, there’s an ambition to bridge and create proximity between the pulsating city and the Technical University, between the lived and ongoing transformation and research that can be conducted in symbiosis with it. And therefore there are examples of Living Labs both on campus and around the city. These Living Labs can be separated into four different categories: energy and transport transition, climate resilience, transformation knowledge, and circular economy; all of which are challenges relevant to both a campus and city setting, although the scale might differ.

In her work at TUB, they have used a digital data platform with a 3d-model of the campus to help identify and analyze places of transformation where changes could take place to achieve certain goals, e.g. climate resilience and carbon dioxide neutrality.

For further information on the work of StadtManufaktur see: Living Labs – Stadtmanufaktur

Living Labs for productive landscapes - Cornelia Redeker

Cornelia Redeker is an Associate Professor at Umeå School of Architecture, Sweden. She’s currently working on the subject of local food production in northern Sweden but has experience from practice and research in both central Europe and northern Africa. During her presentation, she discussed examples from some of her experiences working with projects related to climate adaptation and sustainability in both (very) urban and rural settings. Another project she is currently working on uses Bengt Warne’s “Naturhus”-typology, which if simplified, consists of a “greenhouse envelope” around an existing house offering insulation, UV protection and a favorable microclimate. The project also examines whether this typology could be scaled and/or used in other contexts. In relation to the city of Umeå, she also suggested that Umeå specifically is a very interesting site for possible upscaling of campus Living Labs since about a quarter of the city’s population either work at or are students at the university, which suggests a strong relationship between campus and city as well as an impactful significance to the city as a whole.

Living Labs for energy transitions: Critical perspectives on the notion of Living Labs - Annika Herth

Annika Herth is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management as well as a sustainability advisor at Technische Universiteit Delft, the Netherlands. She gave a critical perspective on the concept of Living Labs, giving examples of projects  from her home campus that have been more or less successfully framed as Living Labs, which focus on the potential contributions to innovations for energy transition. There are situations where a Living Lab is the right approach, but with it comes questions of governance, agency, motivation(s), financing, ownership, power, longevity and transparency; questions that one has to be aware of and prepared to answer.

Developing Alnarp Campus farm model to experimental landscape - Karl Lövrie

Karl Lövrie is a landscape architect and the Pro Dean of the Faculty of Landscape Architecture, Horticulture and Crop Production Science as well as SLU Chairman of the Programme Board for education in Landscape and Horticulture at SLU Alnarp. He gave a speech about the historical development of Alnarp as a knowledge and research hub from when the first agricultural courses were accessible over 150 years ago up until today. He stressed the value of the campus's outdoor facilities and offered insights into the campus development plans. Karl Lövrie is part of the campus development group at SLU Alnarp and is tasked with the process management.

Further information on the campus development at SLU Alnarp you can find here:

Alnarp Campus as a Living Lab, a starting PhD project

Lisa Diedrich is an author, a journalist and a Professor of Landscape Architecture at SLU, Alnarp, where she also teaches and is the Director of the research platform SLU Urban Futures – the organizer of the conference. She gave a short introduction to the newly posted PhD position for the project “Alnarp Campus as a landscape-oriented Living Lab”, for which she is the main supervisor, along with co-supervisor Tobias Emilsson, a researcher on urban vegetation at SLU Alnarp, for the appointed PhD student Dennis Andreasson. The presentation accounted for the current planning document Campusplan Alnarp 2019-2030 and illustrated the need to take into account a long-term landscape vision for the campus. Hence why there is a need for further analysis and fresh thinking on this matter, and the reason for the PhD position to have been realized. The project will bring in perspectives from Michel Desvigne, an experienced landscape architect; and aims to learn from the Landscape Laboratory to better understand and build on the existing qualities of the campus environment. This PhD research, which is co-financed by Akademiska Hus, Movium Partnerskap and SLU Urban Futures is meant be in service of the ongoing and future campus development at Alnarp. It will develop a method utilizing Campus Alnarp as a case study from which knowledge can then be packaged into a transferrable methodology that can be used for campus development elsewhere.


Campus Alnarp’s health landscapes: The Garden Lab & Nature Based Rehabilitation (NaturUnderstödd Rehabilitering)

Sara Kyrö Wissler is the Project Manager for Campus Development Alnarp, SLU. She presented, and also offered a guided tour of the Alnarp Rehabilitation Garden. She explained the activities and associated research that went on between 2001 and 2019 and the impact of the knowledge gained that has since been implemented in society. The Rehabilitation Garden was originally an initiative started by Professor Patrick Grahn with the idea to create a space where you incorporate theory about how nature can be support health, with and through meaningful activities – the mix of doing and being in a supportive environment.

You can look and listen to Anna María Pálsdóttir talk more about Alnarp Rehabilitation Garden here:

Agroecological experiments at Campus Alnarp

Georg Carlsson, Professor at the Department of Biosystems and Technology, presented experiences of working with agroecological experiments at the Alnarp Campus. He discussed three examples; SAFE – a field experiment with four contrasting cropping systems, DRIM – a field experiment concerning the diversity of organic cropping systems and the “Alnarp Agroecology farm” which is a project that was initiated and is driven by students but is open for anyone to volunteer and/or who wants to learn more about sustainable food production.

You can find more info about it this student initiative here: Student Farm | Alnarp's Agroecology Farm (

Alnarp Landscape Laboratory: urban woods for urban futures

Björn Wiström, who is a senior lecturer in Urban Vegetation at SLU and the current Manager of the Alnarp Landscape Laboratory took the audience on a historical odyssey through the years of landscape research on campus. From the establishment of Kurt Vollbrechts Park in 1983, Tor Nitzelius Park in 1984 and with a specific focus on Södra Västerskog - which is the part of campus that is primarily referred to as the Landscape Laboratory - in 1994. The work here is a vibrant and inspiring example of what can be achieved by assuming a place-based, creative and design-driven management method – one that is very far from how administration and management are usually practiced.

SLU Urban Futures met with and spoke to Björn Wiström, along with Erik Svensson who is the park technician responsible for the operative management of the Landscape Laboratory, which was documented and can be found here:

Book launch & panel discussion: Woods Go Urban, Alnarp Landscape Laboratory

The first day of the conference ended with the presentation of the upcoming release of Woods Go Urban with all the book’s authors: professor emeritus and the founder of the Landscape Laboratory Roland Gustavsson, Anders Busse Nilsen formerly a professor of landscape architecture both at SLU Alnarp and Københavns Universitet currently a project leader for afforestation at the Danish Nature Agency, and Björn Wiström who is a Senior Lecturer in Urban Vegetation and the current Coordinator of the Landscape Laboratory; and Hanna Fors, a landscape architect and researcher at SLU’s Department of Landscape Architecture, Planning and Management. Editors Lisa Diedrich, professor of landscape architecture at SLU Alnarp, and Catherine Szanto, landscape architect and teacher at both the School of Architecture of Paris-La Villette and the ESAJ School of Landscape Architecture in Paris, were also present on stage for a short discussion about the process leading up to the book release.

The book depicts the story of the Landscape Laboratory, established in Alnarp in 1991 as the first of its kind in Europe. It depicts it as a physical manifestation of and platform for interdisciplinary research, teaching and demonstration on a 1:1 scale. From the very beginning, an overarching approach for the people involved has been to find real-world references before “going inside” to draw, design or write. In the case of the Landscape Laboratory, there were no existing references that live up to the ambition of the work that the designers and researchers had in mind. Thanks to that we now have the Landscape Laboratory, a physical manifestation of the type of research and value that can be achieved by employing a hands-on approach from design through to management.

The book also includes accounts from two more landscape laboratories in Scandinavia; and will be released later this year through Blauwdruk.


Conference Programme

Getting our cities right #2 - Programme-web.pdf

If you are interested in the presentations shared by the keynote speakers during the conference, please contact

Getting our Cities Right #3 - Umeå, 2023

The next event in this conference sequence will take place at Umeå Campus in 2023. Keep an eye out!

Getting our Cities Right #1 - Ultuna, June 2022

Read the summary from the first conference in Uppsala: Getting our cities right: from critical urbanities to sustainable foodscapes.

Related pages: