Twenty-first cen­tury Berlin is a dynamic palimpsest of its dis­rupted his­tory, one that is actively unfold­ing as the city and the Ger­man state attempts to res­ur­rect Berlin’s pres­ence as a global cap­i­tal. It has oscil­lated from being a global intel­lec­tual and artis­tic cen­ter, to a mar­gin­al­ized urban hostage of polit­i­cal divi­sions, and back to the gov­ern­men­tal and exis­ten­tial cen­ter of a uni­fied Germany.

Berlin is a city of rad­i­cal archi­tec­tural and urban trans­for­ma­tions. As a result, Berlin’s urban form is a col­lage of con­tra­dic­tory urban types, such as the nine­teenth cen­tury mon­u­men­tal­ity, the post-war cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ments of West Berlin, the com­mu­nist hous­ing blocks of East Berlin, and the late twen­ti­eth and early twenty-first cen­tury recon­struc­tions of a uni­fied Berlin. No ter­ri­tory in Berlin is neu­tral: each build­ing, mon­u­ment, street, and dis­trict of the city embod­ies part of its volatile urban history.

Today, Berlin, and all of Ger­many, is a cen­ter of con­tem­po­rary and sus­tain­able archi­tec­ture and urban­ism. A strong soci­etal and polit­i­cal will to man­date high-performing, energy-efficient archi­tec­ture and urban strate­gies has pro­duced a body of con­tem­po­rary prece­dents that has become the bench­mark for sus­tain­able design glob­ally. Addi­tion­ally, sus­tain­able archi­tec­tural and urban design has proven to be a pow­er­ful sym­bol for a newly uni­fied Ger­many as a pro­gres­sive, respon­si­ble, and pros­per­ous state.


Berlin is an ideal lab­o­ra­tory for study­ing the design of urban inter­ven­tions, the his­tory of nine­teenth, twen­ti­eth and twenty-first cen­tury archi­tec­ture and urban­ism, and cut­ting edge strate­gies for cre­at­ing sus­tain­able envi­ron­ments. The Berlin Pro­gram is inte­gral to the sequen­tial cur­ricu­lum of the School of Archi­tec­ture. This is a required semes­ter abroad for all third-year archi­tec­ture stu­dents and optional for M.Arch stu­dents in the 2 and 3 year programs. Students in the Architectural Studies program have the option to go in the fall of their 4th year. Stu­dents take a full four-course load of archi­tec­ture stu­dio, lec­ture, sem­i­nar and Ger­man lan­guage courses. The semes­ter includes addi­tional lec­tures and office vis­its with some of Berlin’s thought lead­ers on his­tor­i­cal and con­tem­po­rary archi­tec­tural and urban issues.

The Berlin Pro­gram pro­vides a superb abroad expe­ri­ence that bal­ances a well struc­tured cur­ricu­lum with indi­vid­ual inde­pen­dence to pro­vide the most com­pre­hen­sive study abroad expe­ri­ence. The pro­gram orga­nizes the inter­na­tional flights, stu­dent hous­ing, the full-four course cur­ricu­lum, and a full array of day, overnight, and week-long field trips to the most impor­tant archi­tec­tural and urban sites in Berlin and all of Ger­many. Stu­dents have the options of liv­ing in shared stu­dent apart­ments or home-stay hous­ing with Berlin fam­i­lies to pro­vide an immer­sive cul­tural expe­ri­ence. Stu­dents will also have exten­sive inde­pen­dent time to explore Berlin, Ger­many, and Europe on their own.


Academics are an important part of your time in Berlin and the following is intended to provide an overview of courses and program structure. These courses have been designed to take advantage of the opportunities available in Berlin. Additional information will be available upon arrival. Unless otherwise indicated all courses are held at the Northeastern/IES center at Crellestrasse 21, Schöneberg, Berlin.


Twenty-first century Berlin is a dynamic palimpsest of its disrupted history, one that is actively unfolding as the city and the German state attempts to resurrect Berlin’s presence as a global capital. It has oscillated from being a global intellectual and artistic center, to a marginalized urban hostage of political divisions, and back to the governmental and existential center of unified Germany.

Today, Berlin—representative of all of Germany—is a center of contemporary and sustainable architecture and urbanism. A strong societal and political will to mandate high-performing, energy-efficient architecture and urban strategies has produced a body of contemporary precedents that has become the benchmark for sustainable design globally. Additionally, sustainable architectural and urban design has proven to be a powerful symbol for a newly unified Germany as a progressive, responsible, and prosperous state.

The Berlin Design Studio will focus on architecture and urbanism as speculative responses to the formal, cultural, and economic realities of the city.  Recent studios have focused on residential development (especially the the increasingly popular idea of the Baugruppe, or cohousing development), and on the design of the public or private topography within the city.

In order to allow for additional time for extended travel and local excursions, studio is held once a week (typically on Monday) and lasts all day (10am–5pm).  Attendance, as in Boston, is mandatory and because of the consolidated schedule, every unexcused absence will result in a grade reduction.


Berlin Architecture and Urbanism: Inventing the Modern City, provides an overview of the buildings, architects, and theories that have shaped Berlin’s identity. The classes are organized with coordinated site visits that familiarize students with the historical background of the city and help them develop a critical and personal approach to looking at architecture. The buildings students visit as part of the course have been selected for their architectural significance as well as their reflection of the different periods of Berlin’s complex history.

Please come prepared with good shoes for walking and, in the winter months, appropriate clothing for being out of doors in cold weather.


Berlin Seminar: Contemporary Practices and Sustainable Futures, will focus on the more important architectural, urban, and infrastructural developments that have emerged in Germany over the past twenty-five years, but it will also focus on the political mandate for sustainable thinking and its impact on contemporary design. Accordingly, students will study sustainable design at multiple scales: the micro-scale of architectural details and integrated technical systems; the architectural scale of efficient and passive energy buildings; the urban scale of architectural intervention in the metropolitan context; the regional scale of open space and transportation networks; and the macro-scale of political action and legislation regarding sustainable design.

A rich variety of trendsetting German projects of sustainable design can be experienced firsthand in Berlin and its surroundings. These building projects offer exciting solutions for the use of renewable energy, efficient lighting, natural materials, converted infrastructure, and ecological/political coordination, and we will visit several of these during regularly scheduled field trips and longer excursions.


This course provides an introduction to the pronunciation and basic grammatical structure of the German language through a variety of oral and written exercises, games, pieces of music, group work, role plays, presentations and excursions.  Among the goals of this course is to familiarize students with the German language so that they are able to engage with confidence in simple conversations.


An overview schedule of the Berlin semester with the most important dates (holidays; excursions; Studio classes; etc.) will be provided to students in advance of their arrival in Berlin.  Additional essential information will be distributed during orientation week when the students first arrive. In order to better take advantage of opportunities and because access to some buildings/sites may be restricted the schedule is subject to change.  Changes will be communicated with as much advance notice as possible.


Excursions and Field Trips are organized throughout the semester and provide an opportunity to extend learning outside of the traditional confines of the classroom.  Travel includes destinations within and adjacent to Berlin as well as those further afield (including the Einstein Tower in Potsdam, the Bauhaus in Dessau, Emscher Landschaft Park in the Ruhr Valley, and Hafenstadt in Hamburg). With the exception of select optional excursions these are understood to be essential parts of the program, attendance is required, and travel costs and fees are included in program.


Berlin has sev­eral excel­lent archi­tec­ture sup­ply stores but some items may be expen­sive. Small items like glue, pen­cils, pens, and erasers can be affordably bought in Berlin. Other sup­plies, like tri­an­gles, met­ric scales, blades, and trace paper, can be costly. Students who have been on the program recommend bringing these from Boston. 

During field trips and excursions significant portion of your time will be spent outdoors.  Please be sure to pack warm clothes for colder months and sturdy shoes.   

Studio is typically open during the week from 10–8 with additional hours added as needed.  The studio is not usually open on the weekend in order to encourage students to take advantage of being in Berlin.