Questions/Comments?Contact Us

« Previous | Main | Global Sustainability and Environment Blog Launch Next »

Global Architecture and Design in Berlin

Study Architecture and Design in Berlin


Berlin is a dynamic city, shaped by a unique history, with an unequivocal propensity for growth and change. Berlin has endured two world wars and 30 years of division. But the destruction and separation also unearthed immense opportunity. Since reunification, the city of Berlin has been undergoing one of the most complex urban transformations in the whole of its turbulent history. Prior to reunification, Berlin was defined by starkly contradictory themes of urban development. This legacy resulted in disparate economic, infrastructure, and spatial conditions. Today, Berlin has emerged as a unique cultural hub for both Eastern and Western Europe and is developing into its role as a global city. Berlin lacks the dominant themes found in its European counterparts (Paris, London, or Rome), and is instead characterized by layered architectural history, divergent planning strategies, and checkered density. These conditions have proved fruitful, as community development cultures, sustainable development, and innovative and dynamic uses and spaces have filled in. Celebrated masterpieces by leading architects and innovative public spaces populate former vacancies in the urban morphology. Ongoing development is the subject of healthy debate driving the global discourse in sustainable and socially responsible architecture and planning.


Berlin as a Laboratory

The conditions of the 20th century uniquely position Berlin for experimental urbanism. The cities’ many vacant buildings and spaces are being populated an empowered creative class. Radical adaptive reuse projects range from arts and culture, to local renewable energy generation and research. DIY projects; community built and operated gardens, parks, event spaces, and even occupied settlements have also taken root, functionally changing the practice of public space making.


In Berlin students witness the dynamic, changing urban landscape first hand, but more importantly engage the city, its people and projects, and even make a contribution.Students learn from local practicing architects, urban designers, and planners in coursework that is relevant to the city of Berlin. This coursework is enriched by local and regional architecture tours and community planning workshops, as well as hands-on design-build workshops.


Study Tours

Students are guided through Berlin and the region to internationally celebrated projects including the Reichstag Dome, by Foster and Partners, Federal Chancellery by Schultes Frank Architects, the Holocaust Memorial by Eisenman Architects, Potsdamer Platz planned by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, and many others.


Berlin coursework also engages exciting new projects including the creative housing and culture cooperatives Spreefeld and Holzmarkt, the Tempelhof Airfield Park and site of the Berlin Airlift, the EUREF renewable energy campus, and others.

Students travel to Hamburg and Prague or Barcelona. Visits include the largest construction project in Europe HafenCity and the International Building Exhibition Projects including the Elbpilharmonie by Herzog & De Meuron and BIQ Haus by Splitterwerk and ARUP. Students also travel to Bauhaus in Dessau, and visit other Global AD students in Barcelona or Prague.


Future Cities Studio

Using the city as a laboratory, the studio rethinks what is salubrious about the city, in both its forms and its life. The design investigations are based on one illuminating hypothesis: in the future, cities will grow to be self-sufficient in their critical necessities through public and infrastructural support. The chief directives will be the shrewd intersection between technology and urbanism, especially under the rubric of ecology. It is our supposition that the prospective ecological city is about extreme solutions to an extreme predicament.

This studio examines this emergent urban condition by focusing on those sites that are seen to concentrate spatial, economic, social and cultural experiences to positive effect. It is interested in the new kinds of intensity of urban experience that are stimulated by the interactions of local sites (topographically) and trans-local networks (topologically). It will pay particular attention to the catalytic circumstances or specific conditions of possibility that give rise to new, productive and sustainable forms of urban experience.


 Urban Ecology on the Spree River

The Studio challenges conventional waterfront development and explores the Spree River as a core in a networked constellation of metropolitan and regional ecosystems. The structure, function, and use of the river is expanded and optimized for ecology, amenity, and productivity.


The Spree River has played a critical role in the configuration of Berlin, and presently presents unique opportunities for development. The river dissects the City of Berlin and was to an extent also the walled border between East and West Berlin. Following the reunification of Germany, early 20th century industrial sites along the river received attention for redevelopment.


Oftentimes controversial, these areas have been home to informal social and cultural uses, while at the same time, valued for central location, proximity to the Spree River and unique spatial and industrial character. Current planning impetus favors a pro-development and public or cultural use model, as well as ecological connectivity along the Spree River and canals to increase biodiversity and improve water quality. The studio investigates the waterfront at the former site of the Berlin Wall. Students work on-site at the Spreefeld cooperative, gathering information and inspiration from local residents and professionals.


Studio Method

Urban ecology is defined as the reinterpretation of natural systems and processes in stark urban context. Students learn about these systems in a bottom-up process that begins with scientific and design experimentation.




The studio employs both hands-on as well as technical design and modeling tools including computational design, performance simulation, physical experimentation, and rapid prototyping e.g. 3D printing or vacuum forming.


The process is tailored to local conditions, but can be applied anywhere in the world. The end result is a comparable gallery of exploration in meaningful formal expression and functional design. The experimental process yields provocative results and bold new visions for a sustainable eco-city of the future.







Keep Me Updated