First Year Group (FYG)

First Year GROUP

Prof. Johan Bettum 
Guest Professors: Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley
​Tutors: Damjan Jovanovic 

The First Year Programme at SAC is common to all the students of the M.A. Architecture course and aims to introduce them to select theoretical and practical aspects of the contemporary architectural milieu. During this year the foundation is laid in terms of a conceptual, methodological and technical expertise for the research based, thesis work in the second year.

The intensive, two-semester long training equips the rich collection of students from all over the world with the knowledge and executive ability to critically engage and deal with contemporary issues in architectural design. Personal interests of the students are contextualised and concretised.

The programme thus arms the next generation of architects with advanced design techniques, methods and strategies, the critical capability to see emerging and relevant design and project opportunities within their own work and the wherewithal to strategically use their imagination and personal interests to drive their design work; thereby becoming part of and furthering the discourse of the school and consequently the discipline of architecture at large.

The first year programme draws in part on the respective thematic areas that the four, second-year Master specialisations present; thereby fully integrating the streams of knowledge within the school but also helping students in choosing their respective specializations for their second year at the school.

Each academic year FYG engages with a specific overall theme. This guides in part the theoretical readings and discussions as well as the practical work. The overall theme embraces generic as well as specific or context dependent aspects pertaining to contemporary architecture and frequently pits its students against societal as well as cultural topics that are as engaging as they are perplexing.

The students go through a manifold training comprised of various sets of theory seminars and design and experiment workshops. The results are accumulative as each separate module is designed to coordinate with all parallel modules. The year ends with the students being presented with an architectural design brief that lasts about six to eight weeks. The final architectural design serves as a proof-of-concept for each student with respect to her or his portfolio of research and experimental results. The End-of-year presentations are held in front of a jury panel consisting of invited guests and faculty members.


Through multiple sets of seminars, the students are equipped with keen theoretical and critical thinking, which runs parallel to and becomes an aid for the various practical tasks. This helps the students to develop positions within the discourse of architecture, not only through their design work, but through an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the multiple streams of historical narratives and contemporary theory within the discipline.

One set of seminars, given on a weekly basis throughout the academic year, integrates with the practical work undertaken in various workshops and individual, technical design tasks. These seminars are based on select literature that relates to the interests of the FYG programme as well as the thematic focus of the year.

A separate set of theory seminars is given by Professor Beatriz Colomina (PhD) of Princeton University and Professor Mark Wigley (PhD) of Columbia University. Colomina and Wigley give four sets of seminars per academic year on specialised topics and their relevance today in terms of architecture. This set of seminars is also carried out in the shape of study trips within Europe; during which the students and the guest professors interact with other institutions, artists, architects and thinkers to further enrich the conversation.


The practical work in FYG goes progressively through a series of introductory courses and workshops in which students become acquainted with select software and computational design procedures, descriptive and generative drawing as well as various modelling techniques. Medium specific problems are addressed and then explored in a systematic manner, equipping the students with an expert skillset for precise investigations of architectural problems.

The results of these courses and workshops are accumulative, and throughout the practical training an emphasis is given to experimental, design research methodology as well as general presentation techniques. Workshops are also undertaken by invited, expert guests relevant to the overarching theme of the year.

​One academic year typically presents the students with one or two small-scale design tasks. The last, always ending the academic year, functions as a case study and proof of concept. With this, each student is individually expected to demonstrate his or her command of a disciplinary specific design problem as well as the use of the research results as a practical and conceptual basis for the design work.

PROGRAMME 2015-2016


In the 2015/2016 academic year, the First Year Group students are introduced to a new topic: Games and Interfaces. ​The topic of games is understood and appropriated as a possible basis of a different research methodology, one that goes away from trajectories and pitfalls of positivist science and into a more playful, self-ironic realm where the basic operations of architecture (drawing, modeling and speaking) acknowledge their debt to rule-based play and the construction of fictions. The topic of games also invokes the various 'games' of architecture itself: The figure-ground game, the inside-outside game, etc. Lastly, the emerging medium of computer games (emerging in the sense of its possible architectural relevance) is employed as an extra-disciplinary interest. The premise is that architects have a lot to learn from game designers, as they also operate in virtual environments and strive to create a total immersive experience. If it is true that cinema was the defining art of the 20th century, games could well prove to be the same for the 21st.

PROGRAMME 2014-2015

BORDERS : Transitions 

The first year at SAC serves the purpose of introducing new students to contemporary issues and technical problems within the discipline of architecture, and focuses mostly on various computational techniques, tools and methods, as well as modes of representation.
​Postgraduate students are asked to go through a series of exercises with increasing level of difficulty, culminating in an end of year project. This year, in collaboration with Architecture Summer Rhein Main 2015, the chosen topic of the final project was ‘Active Borders’, and the students were asked to design a small scale structure on the border between Frankfurt and Offenbach. The overall topic of borders, usually loaded with socio-political content, was understood and implemented in a different way. Instead of focusing on urban, political or programmatic problems of a given situation, SAC chose to remain true to its devotion to the formal problems in architecture, which we understand and champion as its disciplinary basis. The Active Borders topic became a pretext for exploring various transitions between formal properties of objects, as well as investigating the spatial effects engendered through formalizing the border. Various techniques of formalization were developed: the border as an edge, the border as contiguity of discreet objects, the border as continuous differentiation, the border between structure and ornament or as transition between surface and volume; these techniques served as a conceptual driving force for each project. 
Ultimately, each project serves as a proof of concept for a certain idea of disciplinary specificity, as the main question addressed in the first year at SAC is ‘What do architects do?’. Leaving the notions of inter- or trans-disciplinarity to others, the SAC first year program is devoted to a very powerful yet deceptively simple idea: Architects draw and model. 
​The Active Borders exhibition is a showcase of these concepts and our core beliefs within the first year program.

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End-of-Semester Reviews

31 January 2018
SAC’s winter semester closes with End-of-Semester Reviews. The First Semester Group presents its work on 20-21. February and the Master Thesis Studios follow on 22-23. February.
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Mind Your Tools: Form Magazine Interview with Damjan Jovanovic

14 October 2016
The architectural magazine Form has published an extensive interview with Damjan Jovanovic about the projects done in the First Year Group of 2015-16.
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FYG Goes to Karlsruhe with mark wigley and beatriz colomina

16 May 2016
Accompanied by the guest professors, FYG took a day trip to Karlsruhe to visit the ZKM (Centre for Art and Media)
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Mark Wigley and Beatriz Colomina return to SAC

09 May 2016
As part of their recurring involvement with the First Year Group, Mark Wigley and Beatriz Colomina conduct a series of seminars from 15-16 May, 2016. At the end of the seminars, Mark Wigley will also give a public lecture as part of the Lecture Series 2016.
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FYG goes to Rome!

14 April 2016
The first year group visits Rome from April 16th to the 23rd. Among other things, the excursion will include guided tours at the Foro Romano and the MAXXI and an exchange at the Sapienza – Università di Roma.
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20-23. February 2018


End-of-Semester Reviews

SAC’s winter semester closes with End-of-Semester Reviews. The First Semester Group presents its work on February 20-21 and the Master Thesis Studios follow on February 22-23. 

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8-11. February 2018 18:00 pm


Städelschule Rundgang 2018

The Städelschule Rundgang is the school's annual open house exhibition. This year it takes place from February 8-11. SAC will exhibit the work and installations of its students and host events.

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28 November - 1 December 2017 Städelschule Lichthalle


The Architecture of Sugar

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25-26. November 2017 11:00 am - Städelschule Aula



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23-27. October 2017


SAC FYG Workshop with Stefan Wieland and Sebastian Stöhrer

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15-17. July 2017


FYG Study Trip to Berlin accompanied by mark wigley and beatriz colomina

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13 July 2017 18:30 pm - Städelschule Aula


Award Ceremony Günter Bock Prize

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29-30. June 2017 Städelschule Aula




1-5. June 2017


Städelschule Rundgang 2017

The Städelschule Rundgang is the school's annual open house exhibition. This year, on occasion of Städelschule’s 200-year jubilee, it takes place from June 1 to 5. SAC will exhibit the work and installations of its students and host events. 

17 May 2017


Hélène Frichot

Hélène Frichot will conduct a seminar with the students of the FYG. The seminar will be dedicated to a discussion of objects and things; a discussion that can be situated in contemporary theoretical discourse under headings such as among others (feminist) new materialism, speculative realism, speculative materialism, object oriented ontology, process philosophy, affect theory.

15-16. May 2017 Städelschule Aula



The First Year Group will present their speculations on space resulting from Platform Sandbox, a software designed by Damjan Jovanovic and customized by each student. 

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4-11. April 2017


FYG Study Trip to Athens

The First Year Group traveled to Athens from April 4 until April 11. Among historical and cultural activities, the excursion included a visit and topical engagement with the documenta 14, which will take place in Athens and in Kassel this year.