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 M.Arch I graduate students. 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 online OISP 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, OISP 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 OISP 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.
OISP 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 OISP 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 & STUDIOS
The following is some information regarding the academic aspects of the program. You will receive more information upon arrival.
Studio will be held once a week, likely on Mondays, and will last all day. It is mandatory and every absence will result in a grade reduction. Only medical excuses will be accepted.
HISTORY / SEMINAR
Besides studio, there will also be a history class and a seminar. These classes are also mandatory. The schedules for these vary due to excursions and visitors. There are usually no classes on Fridays, but there are occasionally excursions. In many cases, if there is an excursion on Friday, there will be fewer classes during the week. A more detailed attendance policy will be included in the syllabi.
You will have German class at Die Neue Schule every day for the first two weeks and twice a week for the rest of the semester. This course counts for credit. There will be exams and a final grade.
You will receive a more detailed schedule upon arrival. Due to the many site visits and excursions, the schedule is subject to change. You will be provided a weekly schedule for you each Monday morning so you know exactly what will happen from week to week.
Unless otherwise stated, all excursions are mandatory, and absences will only be tolerated for medical reasons. The optional excursions are highly recommended. We strongly hope you will attend everything.
The studio in Berlin runs differently than the studio in Boston. Expect the studio to be open only during the week until late evening. It is not possible to keep the studio open 24 hours. The semester is meant to not only advance your architecture studies, but also for you to experience Berlin, so we do not want you in the studio at all times. There is some flexibility on the weekends, but that will be decided on a case by case basis.
Berlin has several excellent architecture supply stores, but be aware that some items may be expensive. Small items like glue, pencils, pens, and erasers can be easily bought in Berlin. More sophisticated supplies, like a triangle, metric scale, blades, and trace paper, can be expensive. Past students have suggested you might bring those items with you.
Students have the option of living in apartments or doing a home-stay while studying in Berlin.
Location — The apartments are located in a residential area in the neighborhood of Kreuzberg, which is one of the most exciting areas in Berlin. It is a multi-cultural area favored by Turkish immigrants, students, and artists. The nearest subway stop is a 5– to 10-minute walk from the apartments. It is a 3-minute subway ride to Alexanderplatz, a main shopping center in Berlin, and about a 30-minute subway ride from the studio, which is an average commute time in Berlin. There are many grocery stores, drug stores, pharmacies, and cafes in the area.
The apartments are furnished, which means chairs, beds, tables, television, oven, refrigerator, shower, toilet, etc. Dishes and kitchen supplies are part of the apartment. Lexia provides bedding and towels. There is no microwave and no internet. Students in the past have coped with the Internet situation by buying portable internet sticks that they can use throughout the city.
It is expected that the apartments will be kept reasonably clean throughout the semester. There is a landlord responsible for any repairs, including replacing light bulbs. It is important to recycle your garbage, turn off the lights when you leave, and lock your doors. You will get detailed information about apartment maintenance during orientation.
There are washers and dryers on site. You will have to buy tokens from the landlord in the mornings, and then you can do laundry 24-hours a day. You will get more detailed information during orientation.
Berlin is a very safe city, but as with all cities, precautions must be taken. It will be very important while you are abroad to always lock your apartment door both after leaving and upon entering. This will be explained more thoroughly on arrival day.
There are some homestays available, so if you would prefer this option, please tell OISP. 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.
Optional trips are not included in the general fee and you will be required to pay extra for these if you choose to go.
Located an hour south of Berlin by train, this town is the home of the Einstein Tower and Sansoucci Palace.
Dessau is the home of the Bauhaus and the Federal Environmental Agency.
Hamburg is home to some amazing waterfront urban redevelopment and delicious German food, along with the Reeperbahn.
A weeklong trip the Ruhr Valley, including Dusseldorf, Cologne, Wolfsberg, and Essen.
Optional weekend trip. Prague is one of the only cities that was not physically affected by the war so it is still almost entirely Renaissance and Gothic. It is home to the Lennon Wall, Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge and great nightlife.
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.