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  • SUPPORT: Droste Fund will provide between $3500 to $4000 travel support (for US-Citizens and Green Card Holders)
  • TERM: Fall Semester 2018
  • 15 CREDITS: Studio (6) + 3 Electives (9).
  • TRAVEL DATES: September 1 to November 30. 2018.
  • PROFESSORS/INSTRUCTORS: Prof. Martin Kläschen, klaeschen@iit.edu along with Faculty of the Hafencity University (HCU) in Hamburg.
  • COST: Students will need to pay Illinois Tech tuition for course credit hours, travel insurance and housing. Expenses for food in Germany is half of the US cost!
  • REGISTRATION: Architecture Faculty-led - Hamburg Semester Abroad
  • DEADLINE: April 30

As Hamburg is Chicago’s sister city this program involves direct cultural and academic exchange with students and faculty at the local Hafen-City University (HCU).

For more than 800 years, citizens of Hamburg celebrate their waters, not only locally as a natural environment for leisure and entertainment involving Hamburgers in every thinkable nautical activity, but also as infrastructural veins to oceans and Europe’s continental hinterlands for global trade, logistics and shipment. With the opening of the German-German border, Hamburg’s port regained its legendary importance and ever since, it is undergoing massive changes; For the past two decades, this vast areal has been Europe’s largest inner-urban construction site. As meaning and function of the city’s heart transform, the studio will explore its existing and new progressions to charge for design proposals within these post-industrial port settings.


Students will get to know this global city through visiting existing and new developments, such as the Hafen-City, the docks and Airbus industries as well as study phenomena of architectural and urban transformations around the vast harbor area. In order to introduce means and ways to rethink the role of inner-urban ports today, excursions offer opportunities to explore the wider northern European coastal region with trips to comparable port-cities in Scandinavia, Poland, Germany and the Netherlands.


The studio will visit and explore Hamburg as a real-city laboratory. It will study historic archetypes around ports and their reuse today. Investigations on various scales aim on studying Hamburg’s multifaceted intertwinement between its waters and recent architectural developments. In order to discover new means for living and working on and around waterscapes, the studio will explore economic, and social-urban functions of according architectures such as house-boats, water-parks and water-transit and tour port facilities, such as Aurubis and Herzog-De Meuron’s Elbphilharmonie.

The studio will take on regional, architectural and urban subjects such as history, density, patterns of growth, dwellings, popular culture, craft, materials and construction technology and investigate their potential impact on the planning and building culture by considering Germany's economic, social, environmental and technical challenges as a breeding ground for a project: The challenge is to think about Hamburg as an informal city without physical and conceptual preoccupations of our own urban traditions.


In addition to the studio, there are three courses (3 credits each). Prof. Kläschen will lead two courses that will support the studio by delivering the according design research.

A faculty of the Hafen-City University (HCU) will lead a third course. In order to fulfill their individual course requirements for graduation, advanced students are allowed to choose other electives, after coordinating with Prof. Kläschen.

Arch 497-02 Elective: Tracking Hanse(Prof. Kläschen)

Since in the late 11 th century, Hamburg is part of the Hanseatic League; a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and their market towns. Growing from a few North German towns, the league came to dominate Baltic maritime trade for three centuries along the coast of Northern Europe. It stretched from the Baltic to the North Sea and inland during the Late Middle Ages and is still active today as a network for free trade. In order to study and compare their urban history, patterns and architecture, the studio will travel to so-called Hanse-Cities such as Lübeck, Visby, Riga, Gdansk, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Berlin, so as to address and objectify various issues and challenges of urban transformation of northern port-cities.

Arch 497-03 Elective: Red City: Venice of the North (Prof. Kläschen)

Hamburg has more bridges and channels than Venice. What seems to be a rather popular comparison, points towards Hamburg as the northern counterpart to Venice; since their foundation within the fourth century A.D, these water-cities share a long history as centers of global trade, merchandizing, and regional power.

We will travel to Venice, to visit the 2018 Architectural Biennale and try to draw comparisons between the two cities in regards to their urban, architectural and infrastructural connection to their waters. In particular, we will focus on architectural scales, styles, construction technology and materials that are characteristic to the two cities historically and today.

Landscape Program students have the chance to focus on the very particular urban-landscapes features that allow for the operation of the Cities’ inner-city flood zones and investigate (dis)-connections between waterscapes, urban fabric and architecture.

Arch 497-04 Elective: The Shape of Water (HCU Faculty Lead)

This course will be led by faculty of the Hafen-City University (HCU) and investigate contemporary means of inhabiting and reprogramming the interface between the urban fabric and waters. In particular, this course will focus on the vast development of historic and contemporary house boat designs and explore new developments to foster the activities for the social-economic embodiment urban waters.


All courses and studio are scheduled during weekdays to allow for easy weekend travels.

Phase 1: Design Research (August through September)

During a first phase, all design research will be conducted along with fieldtrips and regional excursions. Here, various issues and challenges of current developments of port-cities will be examined and objectified on various urban scales focusing on transformative city- and waterscapes, reuse of postindustrial port facilities and developments of mixed-used architectures. The design research will pursue questions, such as how can the docks and industrial areas that have fallen out of use potentially generate new social-urban qualities? What kind of architectural strategies are applicable to post-industrial port developments that account for the projection of new habitats?

Phase 2: Design (October through December)

The studio will take an informal approach and apply the preceding research to the design process to express conclusions as a basis for the use of appropriate construction types, building systems and material assemblies. The development of the design project focuses on the articulation of ideas and principles as they relate to urbanism and architecture. The project will be located at an inner-city site in Hamburg’s port area. The studio will explore for sites charged with post-industrial metropolitan diversity such as the former Bille Power Plant, the Freihafen and the eastern Hafen-City. The comprehensive design work will incorporate investigations, test concepts and examine approaches to site planning as they relate to sustainability, accessibility and urban design precedents.

In parallel coordination with students and faculty at the Hafen-City University (HCU), the final review will take place in Hamburg in form of a public exhibition along with project presentations to an invited forum of local professionals and authorities.


Prof. Martin Kläschen has taught multiple advanced-, cloud- and international travel studios in Brazil, Columbia, Wales and Germany. He is a German citizen, was born and lived in Hamburg, where his family operates an architectural practice in the second generation.

Professor Kläschen is principal of HouseHaus with awarded projects in the US, South America and Europe and he also serves as a board member of the Chicago Architectural Club (CAC).


Multiple options for studio paces on houseboats and at the Hafen-City University (HCU) are currently inquired.


NGOs: Schaltzentrale, Hallo Festspiele, Geheimagentur, YesWeCamp

Hafen-City University (HCU)


This program is open to students of COA’s Graduate Program (ARCH 544), as well as students of the current 4th Year Undergraduate Program. Spaces are limited, so apply early! Preference will be given to students who take 15 credit hours.Please note: Undergraduate students must have completed ARCH 417 and 418 prior to being eligible to take the Semester Abroad option.