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  • Locations: Lecco, Italy
  • Program Terms: Fall
  • Restrictions: Drexel applicants only
  • This program is currently not accepting applications.
Fact Sheet:
Class Eligibility: Graduate, Junior, Pre-Junior, Senior, Sophomore Type of Program: Intensive Course Abroad
Program Advisor: Ahaji Schreffler
Program Description:
Program Overview | Academics | Program Calendar | Program Fee | More Information

Fall Break in Italy: Responsive Urban Environments

ICA Italy Lake Como

Program Overview

The Responsive Urban Environment (RUE) looks at the city through the lens of ecosystem management. RUE considers the city as a complex network of interrelated systems that rely on each other to maintain system balance. A dialogue of hardscape to landscape, city infrastructure is comprised of buildings, roads and bridges with respect to green public space, waterways and food access – home to humans, plants and animals, the glue of its ecosystem crossed by issues related to public health, the watershed and biodiversity. Ecosystems themselves are complex adaptive systems that require flexibility and the capacity to respond to environmental feedback to cope with change and uncertainty. The well-tempered RUE is a low-energy sustainable city.

Developing strategies for the RUE is critical to ensure a low-carbon future for our planet. The proportion of the world’s population living in cities has steadily increased over the past century from 14 percent in the year 1900 to 50/50 in 2007. While more people are living in cities than in the countryside today, an estimated 70 percent of people are expected to live in the urban environment by the year 2050 – which is why RUE research is imperative today.

Similar in size, Philadelphia and Milan both have approximately 1.5 million inhabitants and are excellent case studies for the RUE. In this 3-credit Intensive Course Abroad, student teams will research a topic they consider to be a crucial aspect to consider for ecosystem management in our cities today to ensure a low-carbon future for our world tomorrow. Research results will be presented at the Venice Biennale – see Biennale Architettura 2018: Freespace, the 16th International Architecture Exhibition
Check out last year’s ICA program on Facebook: Responsive Façade 2017

Upon successful completion of this program, students will be able to:

  • Identify criteria crucial to the health and wellbeing of city inhabitants;
  • Use Milan as a case study to develop RUE design strategies for Philadelphia;
  • Identify natural and manmade forces crucial to the carbon-neutral urban environment;
  • Use ecosystem management principles to inspire the development of guidelines for the design of sustainable cities;
  • Understand the interconnectedness of urban systems with the natural environment and the aggregate impact of cities across the world on global wellbeing.
ICA Italy Lecco Presentations


Course Requirements
Prior to departure, students will be required to meet with the instructor twice to prepare for the course. Post return, students will submit a well-researched document that uses principles of ecosystem management to guide the development of strategies for the Responsive Urban Environment.

Credit/Registration: Students will be registered for AE T480/580: Responsive Urban Environments for 3 credits as part of their fall term course load. Students must leave room for the 3 credits in their fall credit load when registering for fall term, or will be billed for credits exceeding the 20 credit maximum. Graduate students will be billed for 3 Drexel credits at their normal rate.

Optional Global Classroom: Students may opt to take AE T480/580 Integrated Buildings Global Classroom during spring term 2018 where they will collaborate virtually with students from Politecnico di Milano. In this class, students will be introduced to the methodologies and tools used to govern energy, resources and environmental quality decisions for the design and construction of energy-effective buildings that respond to site specific environmental conditions.
where they will collaborate virtually with students from Politecnico di Milano.

Instructor: This program will be led by Dr. Eugenia Victoria Ellis, AIA (, Associate Professor in the Westphal College and the College of Engineering

Program Calendar

Arrival Date: September 9, 2018
Departure Date: September 22, 2018
*Students may extend their travel independently before or after program dates.ICA Italy Lecco Group Photo

2018 Itinerary

Sunday September 9: TRAVEL DAY
Arrive in Milan. Train to Lecco and check into dormitory. Group check-in followed by dinner on own. 

Monday September 10: Team Forming
Morning: Welcome and Introduction
Afternoon: Discussion Group – identify research topics

Tuesday September 11: Research Day
Morning: Lecture + Discussion Group
Afternoon: Funicular to Lecco Mountain top

Wednesday September 12: MILAN RESEARCH DAY
Visit various Responsive Urban Environment sites
Morning: Porta Nuova District
Afternoon: City Life District

Thursday September 13: Research Day
Morning: Lecture + Discussion Group
Afternoon: Discussion Group

Friday September 14: Research and Presentation Day
Morning: Team work
Afternoon: “PechaKucha” Middle-term Project Presentations

Saturday September 15: MILAN TOUR DAY
Morning: TBD (guided tour)
Afternoon: free

Sunday September 16: COMO TOUR DAY
Morning: TBD (guided tour)
Afternoon: TBD (guided tour)

Monday September 17: Research Day
Morning: Lecture + Discussion Group
Afternoon: Discussion Group

Tuesday September 18: VENICE RESEARCH DAYICA Italy Lecco Group Photo
Morning: Travel to Venice
Afternoon: Visit Urban Water Systems

Wednesday September 19: VENICE BIENNALE
Morning: prepare RUE projects for exhibit
Afternoon: exhibits and discussions

Thursday September 20: VENICE TOUR DAY
Morning: TBD (guided tour)
Afternoon: travel back to Lecco

Friday September 21: CELEBRATION
Afternoon: CELEBRATION: tour on the lake and final group dinner

Saturday September 22: TRAVEL DAY
Leave Lecco; train to Milan for return flight to Philadelphia.

2018 Program Fee - $1,350

Due May 1st: $500 Advance Payment + $25 Application Fee
Due July 1st: $850 Final PaymentICA Italy Lecco

*All payments are non-refundable unless declined admission or program cancels for unforeseen reasons.

Included in Program Fee:

  • Double occupancy lodging in Lecco and Venice
  • Transport (bus/train) to Venice, Milan, and Como
  • Guest lectures
  • Program activities and tours
  • Entrance to Venice Biennale International Architecture Exhibition
  • Final ceremony and group dinner

Not Included in Program Fee (estimated):

  • Round trip airfare to Milan ( $900)
  • Airport transfers ($100)
  • Passport ($135)
  • Meals ($600)
  • Spending money ($200)

More Information

  • US citizens are not required to obtain a visa for entry to Italy. Other nationalities must confirm visa requirement on Italy Embassy website.
  • Students must make their own flight arrangements. A suggested flight itinerary will be provided.

Dates / Deadlines:
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Fall 2018 05/01/2018
05/15/2018 09/09/2018 09/22/2018

Indicates that deadline has passed

This program is currently not accepting applications.