Compostela, Spain


The COMPOSTELAs is a summer program organized by Tatiana Berger, Associate Professor of Graduate Architecture, that provides students the opportunity to study historic Galician Spanish architecture and learn from world-renowned architects. Students will earn 6 credits applied to the following quarter and can waive one lecture or studio class. Contact Tatiana Berger for more information.

Students benefit from their stay in Santiago de Compostela, designated a “World Heritage City” by the UNESCO in 1993 because of the architectural value of its old city center. In addition to its historical center, the city is also home to a number of contemporary architectural masterpieces designed by leading architects – Eisenman, Gallego, Grassi, Hejduk, Siza, Viaplana, and others.

The “Compostelas” summer program takes advantage of this important heritage by organizing daily visits to works of architecture such as the CGAC museum by Siza and the City of Culture by Eisenman. The tours are led by architects that were involved in the design of each building and present to the students each project’s evolution. The program emphasizes working with one’s hands and learning from direct engagement with current urban issues. Students evaluate urban conditions of the city using sketches and models, and then present their insights and proposals to local elected officials. Academically the program is structured in four parts: TOURS + LECTURES + ATELIERS + STUDIOS

THE LANDSCAPE as a project

The program’s intent is to teach students about the landscape of Galicia. Day trips are organized each weekend to different sites around this part of northern Spain—we ask the students to look at the landscape as a project. Students also visit relevant architectural buildings outside the city of Santiago such as the University Pavilion by Miralles or the Museum of the Sea by Aldo Rossi in Vigo.


The program works in collaboration with the University of Santiago and scholars give lectures on the history of the city, including on the XVIth century monastery that is home to our classrooms and studios. This offers the students perspectives on architecture from a historian’s or a landscape scholar’s point of view, perspectives that are different from those of architects. Linguists, anthropologists, and archaeologists teaching at the University or part of the Spanish National Research Council contribute unconventional views on architecture.

MASTER CLASS: Materiality in Architecture

Every summer the program invites a relevant historian or architect to lecture on the topic of Materiality in architecture in the format of a Master Class. In previous years, the program was honored to have hosted Messrs’ Acconci, Gubler, Álvaro Siza, William J.R. Curtis and Juhani Pallasmaa featuring such topics as Le Corbusier’s work: “Carpenter’s Centre at 50: Le Corbusier’s Language in Reinforced Concrete” and on “The thinking hand.”


In order to help students develop a tectonic sense of architecture, the program includes workshops with local craftsmen that introduce the students to the three main materials used in the old city: stone, wood and iron. During these workshops students have the opportunity to work with their hands on each of the materials—in this way the students gain a deeper understanding of Materiality and through this a more comprehensive understanding of the city.

ROOTED IN ITS SOCIETY : “El Camino,” as Architecture

Knowledge of the socio-cultural conditions of the city of Santiago and its politics is a fundamental part of the students’ experience. Every year the program works with city officials to define a series of problems for the students to resolve. At the end of the program, students present alternative design solutions to the city officials. Last year the studios worked on the pilgrimage experience and on connections between “El Camino” and the city itself. The program also invites artists –sculptors and musicians who are working with similar issues into the studios and they provide the students with new ideas on how to effect architectural investigations.