Module and Programme Catalogue

Search site

Find information on

2019/20 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

GEOG2041 Helsinki: urban growth and sustainability

20 creditsClass Size: 24

Module manager: Dr Gordon Mitchell

Taught: Semester 2 View Timetable

Year running 2019/20

This module is mutually exclusive with

GEOG2042Montpellier: urban and rural development
GEOG2043Belgrade: urban and social geographies of a Balkan city
GEOG2470Sicily: Exploring the Migration Crisis

Module replaces


This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

During our week in Finland we concentrate on issues related to urban spatial planning and transport, through a consideration of the cities of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, the growth pressure faced, and the approaches used to plan for growth in a sustainable manner. We aim to investigate and improve our understanding of the relationships between urban function, urban form, transport and mobility, taking Finland’s two largest cities as case studies. We seek to (a) compare relevant features of Helsinki and Espoo (e.g. urban structures, transport supply and use, and activity patterns, characteristics, attitudes and aspirations of residents); (b) consider the implications for planning desirable urban futures; and (c) contrast our findings with our knowledge and experience of wider international contexts. Our approach will be based on the design, delivery and analysis of a public questionnaire (English is widely spoken), an independent (small group) sustainable place observational survey based on planning industry methods, with support from local experts (guided visits and technical presentations), and observations from field diaries and photographic evidence. The research methods used provide an opportunity to practice techniques that may be employed in the Level 3 dissertation. We will travel extensively through the region (always by public transport) exploring the Russian imperial core of Helsinki where we are based, nodes of urban intensification within central Helsinki and peripheral expansion (e.g. Vousaari, the new port suburb), as well as the ‘forest’ new town of Tapiola, and the other main centres of Espoo to the west. A (staff escorted) full day excursion to Tallinn, Estonia’s capital is usually possible (Baltic ferry service permitting) providing a major contrast to Helsinki. Shaped in the 1200’s by the Hanseatic league, Tallinn is being reshaped as economic development sweeps away the communist urbanism legacy beyond the medieval walled city. A sauna night (subject to availability) provides an opportunity to meet with students from Aalto University transport department.


This module strives to equip students with:
a) an understanding of the relationships between urban form, urban function, transport and mobility, particularly for cities experiencing strong pressure for growth
b) an appreciation of the implications of alternative land use and transport planning strategies for sustainable urban development, enhanced through study of Finland’s largest cities, Helsinki and Espoo
c) an appreciation of the dynamics of the geographical processes underpinning the development of cities of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area
d) a knowledge of the historical context of development of Helsinki within its environs and the wider Baltic region
e) an appreciation of how local urban and regional characteristics of this part of Finland relate to the wider context of the changing geographies of contemporary Europe and how they compare with those of the UK
f) skills in the identification, collection and representation of a variety of information and data sources;
g) an ability to read the environment, undertake field research, plan projects and write reports to short deadlines;
h) an understanding of the practical application of concepts and methods learnt in the classroom.

Learning outcomes
Learning outcomes comprise an understanding of:
a) contemporary debates about approaches to sustainable urbanism, sustainable transport, and their interaction
b) urban growth drivers and the influence of alternative spatial planning approaches (principally plan led v market led) in accommodating growth sustainably
c) the geography of place and its constitution by social, economic, environmental and political processes, and the influence of place on these processes
d) the geographies of social difference, with particular reference to life-stage, class and gender, and changing needs and aspirations
e) considerations in questionnaire survey design
f) the process of data collection through questionnaire/interview and structured observation of place in the field;
g) strategies for analysing data;
h) sensitivity to ethical issues that can arise when conducting field work;
i) an awareness of a diversity of approaches to field research.

Skills outcomes
Cognitive skills
Abstraction and synthesis of information from a variety of sources
Assessment and critical evaluation of the merits of contrasting theories, explanations, policies
Critical analysis and interpretation of data and text
Developing reasoned arguments
Solving problems and making reasoned decisions
Practical/professional skills
Plan, design, execute and report geographical research both individually and as part of a team
Undertake effective field work (with due regard for safety and risk assessment)
Collect, interpret and synthesise different types of quantitative and qualitative geographical data
Recognise the ethical issues involved in geographical debates and enquiries
Key skills
Learn in familiar and unfamiliar situations
Communicate effectively (in writing, verbally and through graphical presentations)
Use information technology effectively (including use of spreadsheet, database and word processing programmes; Internet and e-mail)
Identify, retrieve, sort and exchange geographical information using a wide range of methods.


Lectures and student-centred learning together with one week of field work in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area (comprising three of Finland’s largest cities), including the following general themes:
a) Introduction to the contemporary cities of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area
b) Urban spatial form and its role in accommodating growth sustainably; Alternative spatial planning approaches
c) Origins and historical development of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area;
d) Baltic urban and regional growth and transport in a European context
e) Design of a common field questionnaire for class delivery in field
f) Opportunity to present short reports on place / issues researched pre-trip, and contribute to class ‘place familiarisation portfolio’.
And more specifically to the field class itself:
a) Orientation in Helsinki
b) Land use and transport planning in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area (visits around Helsinki, Espoo and potentially Vantaa)
c) Technical presentations from planning professionals on issues related to module themes (e.g. planning strategies, growth nodes, transport infrastructure investments)
d) All class questionnaire work in Helsinki and Espoo
e) Sustainable places surveys based on industry techniques (e.g. LEED). Conducted independently (small group) throughout the urban region
An optional day trip to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia is also usually possible (see module summary for further detail).

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours136.00
Total Contact hours64.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Private study will take the following forms:
1) Preparation for weekly lectures (e.g. reading, research for site familiarisation class exercise, small group questionnaire development work).
2) Reading to prepare for the field trip and essay assessment.
3) Reading and data analysis to research and prepare the field trip report.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Through site familiarisation exercise, in class discussion over appropriate questionnaire design, essay assignment, and routine inspections of field notebooks and other work (questionnaire and area survey material) during the field trip.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1500 words35.00
Report2500 words65.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 18/06/2019


Browse Other Catalogues

Errors, omissions, failed links etc should be notified to the Catalogue Team.PROD

© Copyright Leeds 2019