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.


Please com­plete the GEO application and sub­mit an offi­cial tran­script and pho­to­copy of your pass­port ID page to 403 Richards Hall by March 1 for Fall and Octo­ber 1 for Spring. You can also upload the pass­port copy to the online application.

You will also be required to com­plete the forms requested by the pro­gram over­seas; how­ever, those are not avail­able at this time. Once we receive these forms, GEO will notify you and send you the documents.


The cost of your pro­gram is TBD until North­east­ern Uni­ver­sity con­firms the annual tuition; for under­grad­u­ate stu­dents, this will include NU tuition for 16 cred­its, housing, International SOS Assis­tance, and ISIC card. Flights and meals are not included.


All stu­dents will be required to secure a stu­dent visa. Depend­ing on your nation­al­ity, you may be required to obtain the visa prior to arrival or in coun­try. Inter­na­tional stu­dents will need to secure a visa prior to arrival; U.S. pass­port hold­ers will secure their visa after a few days of arrival. Although this is case, there are a num­ber of doc­u­ments that will need to be com­pleted prior to arrival and be sent to the insti­tu­tion we will be work­ing with to start the process.  Please note that GEO will pro­vide nec­es­sary doc­u­men­ta­tion to all inter­na­tional stu­dents to obtain the visa; how­ever, ulti­mately, visa obtain­ment is a student’s respon­si­bil­ity. Addi­tion­ally, the pro­gram fee does not cover visa fees.


GEO will host pre-departure ori­en­ta­tion for all stu­dents par­tic­i­pat­ing in study abroad pro­grams. There will be a pre­sen­ta­tion on flights and the options avail­able to all stu­dents. Please note that in order to receive air­port pick up, you will need to be on the group flight from Boston on the offi­cial departure date.


All stu­dents will be reg­is­tered by GEO for a Berlin, Archi­tec­ture place­holder course. This will show up on your Ban­ner reg­is­tra­tion as P/F until we receive your grades from abroad. Once we receive grades, we will post the indi­vid­ual NU courses and the let­ter grade. You will receive the fol­low­ing credit for your semes­ter abroad: Ger­man lan­guage course (GER­Mxxxx), Design Stu­dio (ARCH3155), Sem­i­nar (ARCH3361), and Archi­tec­ture and Urban­ism Abroad (ARCH3361).


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. 


Stu­dents have the option of liv­ing in apart­ments or doing a home-stay while study­ing in Berlin.


Students live in the Sreepolis Boardinghaus. Apartments are located in Oberschöneweide, a neighbourhood in Berlin’ss outheastern district of Treptow-Köpenick. The history of Oberschöneweide is closely connected to the history of AEG which reached international fame from here. Your neighborhood (Kiez) is home to the University of Applied Sciences for Engineering and Economics (HTW Berlin) and its many students make the area especially lively. Oberschöneweide is in the process of being gentrified; new offices, galleries, clubs, bars, restaurants, etc. have been emerging over the past few years and the district has drawn great creative potential. Your apartments are all located in one building and feature waterfront access, a BBQ area in the garden, fitness lounge, cafeteria, and a roof terrace.


The doors in the apartment building operate with swipe cards. Please take care of your swipe card and do not lose it (in case you lose it the whole key system in the house might have to be replaced and this might result in high costs for you). Please do not let any strangers into the building and make sure to close all doors and windows when you leave the building.


If any damage occurs in your apartment, please notify the Spreepolis front desk directly. Alternatively, you will find a sheet ‘Problems with Apartments’ on the pin board in the studio where you can note down any damages and we will then notify the maintenance officer. Please note that you will be charged for any damages that you caused during your stay at the end of the semester.


You will find bedding and towels on your bed. There will be a check list to ensure that you received those items upon arrival and that you returned them prior to departure. For hygienic reasons, please always use coversfor your mattress, pillow and blanket.


The washing machines are located in the basement. You can buy laundry tokens at the Spreepolis front desk during their regular office hours.


There is a weekly cleaning service (basic). However, the main cleaning responsibility lies with you: You are responsible for keeping your apartment clean. IES provides vacuum cleaners and dust mobs which can be taken out at the Spreepolis front desk and must be returned there after each use. All other cleaning paraphernalia can be bought at any supermarket or drug store.


Garbage should be separated in your apartments and then taken down to the trash bins located in the Spreepolis backyard on a weekly basis. There are separate trash bins for paper, glass, plastic, and organic waste. You will be provided with more information on recycling and separating garbage during our orientation sessions.



There are some home­s­tays avail­able, so if you would pre­fer this option, please tell GEO. It is an excel­lent way to learn more about Ger­man cul­ture and become bet­ter inte­grated into Berlin. If you choose a home­s­tay, you will get more detailed infor­ma­tion dur­ing ori­en­ta­tion. The cost is equiv­a­lent to that of the apartment.

Located an hour south of Berlin by train, this town is situated on the River Havel and is the capital of the federal state of Brandenberg.  As a former residence of Prussian rulers, Potsdam is adorned with beautiful gardens and palaces that have earned much of the city the designation of UNESCO World Heritage Site. Amongst these are the Sanssouci Palace and Park and the Neuer Garten.  Visitors also enjoy Einstein Tower, a quirky astrophysical observatory in Albert Einstein Science Park. The city survived WWII virtually unscathed, so its exquisite architecture remains intact and is a living testament to its importance and grandeur during Prussian rule, attracting great scholars and architects alike.

Dessau sits at the confluence of the rivers Elbe and Mulde and is part of the 2007 merge of the cities of Dessau and Roßlau. This area is hailed for its charm and lure for those who appreciate culture and natural beauty. Dessau is also home to Bauhaus, a German art and architecture school that operated from 1919 to 1933. The ideas and designs that characterized the “Bauhaus style” are widely considered to be some of the biggest influences on modern design, modernist architecture, and modern industrial culture. The National Socialists forced the school to close in 1932 but its influence lives on today and the site has since been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city and an important port city for centuries. As a center for international trade, Hamburg developed fast and today is an affluent, multicultural city. The spirit of Hamburg is largely influenced by its maritime culture, from amazing waterfront urban redevelopment to delicious German seafood. It is celebrated for its relevance in the world of science, research and education, and is also a hub for creative industries including art venues, concert halls, theatres, music producers, and artists. Hamburg is also home to the Reeperbahn, a street and entertainment district known for its nightlife, restaurants, and festivals.

Ruhr Valley
This weeklong trip to the Ruhr Valley features a collection of metropolitan cities that make up the region. Once the European center for heavy industry with endless steel and coal plants, the entire region has masterfully transformed itself into a top recreation destination featuring industrial historical sites and modern cosmopolitan culture and fine arts. This trip will include a stop in Dusseldorf which is now known for its thriving business and commerce sector, avant-garde architecture, fashion industry, exciting nightlife, and posh and modern style. Cologne, another destination, is now known for its abundant museums and galleries as well as its gothic architecture and world famous cathedral. This trip will also make stops in the cities of Wolfsburg and Essen, amongst others, which all have a character of their own but share a deeply rooted industrial past.

Vorarlberg is the westernmost state of Austria which borders Germany as well as Switzerland and Liechtenstein. This picturesque valley is nestled in the Alps and home to the natural splendor of lakes, forests, and towering peaks. But despite its peaceful, predominantly rural atmosphere, this region is considered one of Europe’s leaders in innovative architecture and modern art. Vorarlberg is a champion of simple and sustainable architectural methods with a style that seamlessly blends sleek and cosmopolitan with traditional. Timber architecture in particular has become a staple of the Vorarlberg landscape and architectural style.

This weekend trip takes you to the capital and largest city in the Czech Republic. Prague was founded during the Romanesque era, flourished during the Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque eras, and has remained an important political and cultural center throughout centuries of empires including the Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburg Monarchy.  The “City of a Hundred Spires” is rich with culture and history which comes to life through its grand architecture, which was remarkably unharmed during the Second World War. Some of its jewels include the Lennon Wall, Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, and Old Town Square. Prague also boasts an impressive number of museums, art galleries, and pubs, and is celebrated for its great nightlife.

A student-written blog called “Architecture in Berlin” documents the field trips, studio life and social life of students while they are studying in Berlin. Check it out to see images of studio, of the apartments and the highlights of the semester:

Below are stories about specific day trips that the student have done as part oft he Berlin Program.


Writ­ten by Chelsea Brown Class of 2013

Class time in Berlin is divided between lec­tures and field trips. We are given the unique oppor­tu­nity of study­ing his­tor­i­cally rel­e­vant struc­tures, such as Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s Altes Museum, and then vis­it­ing them shortly there­after. In addi­tion to sites in Berlin we have taken day trips to visit rel­e­vant archi­tec­tural sites through­out Ger­many. Recently we spent a day in Dessau, where we were able to visit two sites that each play a promi­nent role in our respec­tive sus­tain­abil­ity and his­tory courses.

First we toured the Fed­eral Envi­ron­men­tal Agency. Designed by Sauer­bruch Hut­ton, this office build­ing is a lead­ing exam­ple in sus­tain­able design. The organic form, bright col­ors, and ample light pro­vided a pleas­ant con­trast to the sur­round­ing for­mer indus­trial area of Dessau. Our tour guide, an employee of the Agency, explained in depth many of the sus­tain­able tech­nolo­gies incor­po­rated through­out the design. In addi­tion to solar pan­els, the build­ing also uti­lizes geot­her­mal heat exchange in the reduc­tion of energy con­sump­tion. The office build­ing also main­tains a con­nec­tion to its sur­round­ings in its use of locally sourced mate­ri­als, as well as pub­licly acces­si­ble audi­to­rium, library, and café.

In the after­noon we were given the oppor­tu­nity to tour the Bauhaus. Con­sid­ered one of high­est points of mod­ern archi­tec­ture, it was an excit­ing moment to walk through the entrance and feel as if we had finally “arrived.” After years of look­ing at pic­tures of the cam­pus designed by Wal­ter Gropius, we were able to wit­ness it first­hand. Our tour guide led us through a num­ber of the build­ings on the cam­pus, as well as into Gropius’ office, in which were sit­u­ated iconic pieces of Bauhaus fur­ni­ture. After words we lined up below the iconic “Bauhaus” sign to have our pic­ture taken, just as in all of the pic­tures we have seen.


Writ­ten by Bill Zahu­rak Class of 2014

The best way to learn about Ger­man His­tory is to expe­ri­ence it first-hand. While some stu­dents were orig­i­nally less than enthused about tak­ing a Ger­man his­tory course, we dis­cov­ered by the end of our trip that the Berlin semes­ter was a once in a life time expe­ri­ence to not only learn a about new cul­ture but to also be in the midst of it. One of the most antic­i­pated trips dur­ing the semes­ter was our visit to a Hertha Berlin soc­cer match held at the Olympias­ta­dion, home of the 1936 world Olympics.

Dri­ven by the ambi­tion of Nazi Ger­many, this sta­dium was built as a demon­stra­tion to the world that Ger­many was a ris­ing global super power. The mon­u­men­tal­ity of the sta­dium and its sur­round­ing devel­op­ment intended to invoke in vis­i­tors the idea that Ger­many pro­duces the best archi­tects and the best ath­letes. Although both the 1936 Olympics and the Hertha Berlin Soc­cer team are usu­ally remem­bered as upsets in Ger­man sports, our trip to the sta­dium is remem­bered as one of our favorites.

After a short train ride out­side of the city of Berlin, we arrived at the sta­dium and were given short a tour of the 1936 Olympic Site. We were awestruck when we real­ized how large every­thing was. From the Olympic Ring tow­ers to the upper roof of the sta­dium, which cov­ers 37,000 square meters and cov­ers 77,000 peo­ple, every­thing is built to a mon­u­men­tal scale we weren’t used to experiencing.

Dur­ing the trip we also got a chance to see Le Corbusier’s Berlin Unité, located con­ve­niently within walk­ing dis­tance of the sta­dium. Our his­tory course cov­ered a lot of ground in terms of both mate­r­ial and field trips.  We found these field trips incred­i­bly help­ful because we were able to learn much more about a build­ing we had stud­ied after see­ing it for ourselves.

What really made the trip for many of us was the soc­cer game itself. Most of us stopped by the sports mem­o­ra­bilia stand to buy some Hertha col­ors and then went right to the food sta­tions and beer tents to pre­pare for the match. Aside from every­thing we learned in class, being in Berlin was a great oppor­tu­nity to expe­ri­ence a new culture.