Berlin changed me not only as a designer and traveler, but also as a person. Through an almost random choice, I decided to spend my fourth year of architecture school at the Global Architecture and Design Berlin program. Despite knowing little about Berlin before, it has come to be my favorite place in the world. In my opinion, there truly is no better place to learn the art of architecture.
The city just screams creativity - from street art in every neighborhood to art galleries to unique clubs and bars. Coming from a design background, this creative energy was contagious, giving me inspiration at every turn. The experiences I had with this fun culture helped shape me into the person I am today - one that is willing to push the boundaries and rebuild from a literal or metaphorical place of destruction. The city taught me that everyone can be themselves, whether that comes to personal affairs or creative pursuits. Seeing this open way of life, in contrast to American cities, was a more than welcome culture shock.
Studying abroad also gave me the opportunity to travel to many different locations with entirely different architectural styles and cultures. By immersing myself in these other cultures, I was able to pick up views of a variety of people and why they designed the way they did. This further opened my mind to new designs and kept me inspired for my future in architecture.
Alongside experiencing the city itself, my courses also helped me dive deeper into the creative, rich in history, and sustainability-minded metropolis of Berlin. The design and sustainability seminar took us all over the city, showing us cohousing, abandoned buildings turned into parks or clubs, and other Berlin-specific typologies. I often still find myself thinking of these projects to bring them into my current designs. Through these excursions and numerous lectures, I learned how different the architectural scene is in Germany, and specifically in Berlin. Their emphasis on sustainability and community can teach Americans a lot. On the other hand, the Berlin history course I took gave me background on the urban planning side and how it related to the important historical times in Germany. Rebuilding following any kind of destruction is a prevalent topic these days with natural disasters and pandemics. Having the understanding of the city’s history also helped me to appreciate the various styles of architecture - from West Berlin hofs to East Berlin plattenbaus. Along with these classes focused on Berlin, I also took a future cities design studio and a design technology workshop. These helped strengthen my architectural skills, from Grasshopper software to mapping, and pushed me to create my own designs inspired by the local vernacular.
As I finish my degree in architecture and move into my career, I can’t help but express that nothing shaped me more as a designer than my time in Berlin. The lessons I learned in my courses and through exploring each and every corner of the city will stick with me forever.