TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY 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 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.
SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE BERLIN PROGRAM
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.
STUDIO (ARCH 3155)
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.
HISTORY (ARCH 3361)
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.
SEMINAR (ARCH 3362)
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.
GERMAN LANGUAGE AND CULTURE (Elective)
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
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.
SUPPLIES and GENERAL PREPARATION
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.
BEDDING AND TOWELS
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 AND RECYCLING
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.
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: http://nuweb4.neu.edu/architectureinberlin/
Below are stories about specific day trips that the student have done as part oft he Berlin Program.
DAY TRIP TO DESSAU
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.
DAY TRIP TO THE 1936 OLYMPIASTADION
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.