The Helsinki International Semester gives students the opportunity to study in an acknowledged capital of 20th-century—and now 21st-century—world architecture and design accomplishment. Building upon the Sam Fox School's long-standing relationships with Finnish architectural culture, students have the opportunity to work with principal figures in Finnish architecture and to experience firsthand the strengths of the culture.
The curriculum places an emphasis on fostering an appreciation for the "art of building," with equal focus on materials and the experience of place. Students participate in studio projects that emphasize building design at the civic level (museums, libraries, schools), along with smaller design-build exercises for rooms and furniture. Building technologies course work emphasizes design issues of climate and light in northern latitudes, as well as sustainability issues. History courses emphasize the presence and strength of modern architecture in Finland, alongside examples of vernacular wooden architecture.
The program is supplemented by a broad range of field trips to places such as Lapland, the Finnish archipelago, Stockholm, Tallinn (Estonia), and St. Petersburg. In addition, there are materials workshops in wood construction and weekly visits to the offices and studios of Finland's most prestigious and creative architects and artists.
Instruction is based in well-equipped studio, lecture, and seminar spaces within the Faculty of Architecture of the Helsinki University of Technology, located in Otaniemi, a neighborhood 9 kilometers from the Helsinki center. Instructors are all graduates of the Faculty of Architecture, Helsinki University of Technology, and are licenses architects with strong records of accomplishments in both professional practice and published research.