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Studying Architecture in Germany

Architects design, plan and realize buildings
An article by Madlen Ottenschläger

Studying Architecture in Germany
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That is what it’s about

Architects design buildings, but also work on the urgent issues of our time. As rents skyrocket, they experiment with innovative and cost-effective construction methods and plan for tighter urban development. Age-appropriate living is a subject just as much as migration. Together with engineers and computer scientists, they work on so-called “smart homes”. The students learn to plan buildings - from design to realization on the construction site. Depending on the type of university and study program, one can arrange for technical, artistic or economic specialities. "That's why you should first inform yourself well about the possible places of study," advises Clemens Bonnen, professor at the University of Bremen and chair of the Architecture Department. Anyone who later wants to work in Germany as an independent architect must be registered with a chamber of regional architects. This requires not only a degree - usually after five years of Bachelor and Master studies, or a minimum of four years Bachelor plus two years of work experience. The same applies in the other EU states. An eight-semester bachelor's program is not enough in many countries outside the EU.

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This is how the course runs

The students learn to design, conceive and design. They develop their ideas as a sketch, model or three-dimensional computer representation. Although they also draw by hand and build models of cardboard, plastic or wood. But it is always constructed on the computer. Dealing with computer-aided design (CAD) software and visualization programs is mandatory and is taught at the beginning of the course. Because planning and building are impossible without theoretical and historical references, art, building history and architectural theory are part of the syllabus. Technical knowledge and skills are taught, among other things, in building construction and structural engineering, which deal with the connection of components, statics and stability. Building physics, building law, city planning and construction management are also a part of it. In addition, environmental issues are playing an increasingly important role. Often, students travel to analyse neighbourhoods or construction projects. “Field trips are indispensable,” says Bernd Rudolf, professor at the Bauhaus University in Weimar and president of the Dean's and Departmental Conference on Architecture, Spatial Planning and Landscape Architecture, “because the built environment is our library”. Important to know: During the course, several hundred euros per semester can quickly be spent on drawing programs, sketchbooks, materials and study trips.

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Typical questions raised within the subject

  • How does a creative idea become a design?
  • How does a thorough mix within a neighbourhood succeed?
  • How can knowledge about architectural history be transferred into a concept?
  • Which constructions and materials are sustainable?
  • Which specifications are to be observed when realizing a construction project?
  • Which computer programs are chosen for the presentation of a design?

The subject suits you,...

...if you can think abstractly, have spatial imagination, technical understanding and perseverance. Night shifts are not unusual at the end of the semester. In addition, team and critical skills as well as communication skills are required, because at the construction site, one has to later deal with people from very different occupations. "Because the projects are becoming ever more complex, they require good cooperation," says Bernd Rudolf.

Is there a numerus clausus?

Around half of the courses have an NC. More and more universities are doing interviews, aptitude tests or demanding a portfolio with drafts. Some also write an internship in construction or an architectural office.

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