SoSe 2015: The City for Health and Wellbeing: The Generation Project Emscher Conversion - Quality of Life and New Resources

Course description


A growing majority of people worldwide is living in cities, which implies that their quality of life depends on the quality, functionality, and atmosphere of the cities and metropolises. To see their health ensured is one of the main human needs. Health is determined by influences from the socio-cultural, economic and ecological as well as the physical environment. In this context questions arise like:

- How are these influences interrelated?

- Who is responsible for a healthy city?

- What methods do exist to measure health in cities?


In the seminar we want to focus on such research questions and want to create interdisciplinary empirical research projects. As in the recent years, we have chosen the Emscher Conversion Area, thus focussing on settlements and their inhabitants in the vicinity of the Emscher in the cities of Gelsenkirchen, Herne and Duisburg.


The Emscher conversion - as one of Europe's biggest infrastructure projects - aims at the reconstruction of an 80-kilometre open wastewater sewer to a restored natural waterway. This reconstruction comprises technical, social, cultural, political, economic, and environmental aspects. Thus, the assessment of direct and indirect health impacts of the conversion requires an interdisciplinary approach.


Using the real-life and multi-annual project Emscher conversion as an excellent example to study the complex structure of urban settings, this practice-orientated seminar includes approaches, methods and techniques from public health, epidemiology, sociology, communication and ecological science, urban geography and urban planning. The students are expected to develop a comprehensive view and understanding of urban settings and development processes.


Since the beginning of the project in 2012, the areas of the annual field studies have been selected by considering specific criteria. For the summer term 2015 the following areas have been selected because new housing quarters have been developed or are still being developed (often in the immediate vicinity to old quarters of different styles and ages):

1. Herne, Belgorodstraße

2. Gelsenkirchen, Am Nordsternpark/Am Bowengarten

3. Gelsenkirchen, Küppersbusch Quarter

4. Gelsenkirchen, Am Stadtgarten

5. Duisburg, Röttgersbach/Erlanger Straße

6. Duisburg, Inner Harbour


Objective and tasks

The students will analyze the historical/spatial development and the structural, social, environmental and health conditions of their study areas. Thereby, they should achieve a deeper understanding of the complex construction of a healthy city. They will receive scientific research inputs from both theoretical and practical perspectives. They will learn to identify the potentials and deficiencies of the new settlements and characterize the relations between these areas and factors related to environment, health and wellbeing. The checklist for Healthy Urban Development (HUD) (NSW Health 2009) will serve as a key tool for the analysis of the areas. Primary and secondary data will be collected and evaluated for this purpose.


Aim is to gain a transdisciplinary understanding of health and its determinants in different urban contexts, to identify potential benefits/deficiencies within the study areas and finally to describe and discuss these in a project report and present it to the other groups and practice partners.


Teaching, learning and assessment

The course involves a combination of seminars and group work. The seminars will consist of lectures and practical work to help students draw together and apply the knowledge and skills necessary for characterizing and analyzing their study area. Seminars will be held on Mondays and acquire regular attendance (mandatory). Hours given to group work is dependent on individual group members and dividing work load within the group.


Students are assessed by a final group work presentation (30% of the overall grade), a report (divided in part A and B, accounting for 60% of the overall grade) and 10% of the overall grade will be assessed by attendance (participation, more than 3 times unexcused absence will results in downgrading).


All students are required to present and discuss the final group work. The report part A should be handed in at the 15th June, part B at the end of the semester (30th Sept). Each student must be involved in the writing process.