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  • Locations: Lecco, Italy
  • Program Terms: Summer
  • Restrictions: Drexel applicants only
  • This program is currently not accepting applications.
Fact Sheet:
Fact Sheet:
Click here for a definition of this term Class Eligibility: Graduate, Junior, Pre-Junior, Sophomore Type of Program: Intensive Course Abroad
Program Description:
Program Overview | Academics | Program Calendar | Program Fee | More Information

Summer 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.

The course offers an intensive learning experience by combining lectures, field study and a research project. The workshop activities will be hosted in the Lecco Campus of Politecnico di Milano and will focus on the research of RUE concepts and their translation into design strategies. Students from Politecnico di Milano, Drexel University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Chulalongkorn University Bangkok will be organized into mixed multidisciplinary groups. The research activities will be conducted under the close direction of professors and supported by multidisciplinary research methods. Some short lectures during the workshop will introduce students to the urban context of the project work and to some of the concepts related to Responsive Urban Environments.

ICA Italy Lecco Group Photo2018-2022 ICA program on Facebook: Responsive Urban Environments
2017 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 well being 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 well being.


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 / AE 580: Responsive Urban Environments for 3 credits as part of their summer term course load. Students must leave room for the 3 credits in their credit load when registering or will be billed for credits exceeding the 20 credit maximum. The 3 summer term credits are not optional. Graduate students will be billed for 3 Drexel credits at their normal rate. Freshmen and graduating seniors will be billed for 3 summer term credits if participating. 

Pre-requisite: None. All undergraduate and graduate majors are welcome to apply for this program. 

Instructor: Dr. Eugenia Victoria Ellis, AIA (, Professor in the Westphal College and the College of Engineering

Optional Global Classroom: Students may opt to take AE 441/541 BIOdesign Global Classroom during spring term 2024 where they will collaborate virtually with students from Politecnico di Milano. This course explains why designers and engineers need to consider relationships between the built environment and nature by providing the scientific and medical reasons behind the effects of the natural environment on health and wellbeing. Through the case study model, students will discover techniques to incorporate the natural environment into design of the built environment and will translate this knowledge into new knowledge, inventions and design strategies for the responsive urban environment.


Program Calendar

Arrival: June 9, 2024*
Departure: June 22, 2024
*This program departs during spring term finals week. Students should request an NGR with their faculty to take final exams upon return. A support letter can be provided by Office of Global Engagement.

Students may extend  travel independently after program date though are responsible for all pre/post program arrangements.

2024 Tentative Itinerary - Click here for a more in-depth itineraryICA Italy Lecco Group Photo

Arrival and check-in at the Adolf Loos Students Dorm
Welcome Apéro with buffet dinner in Lecco @Imbarcadero
Day 2 (Lecco Campus)
Welcome and RUE Workshop Introduction; Lecturers: Eugenia V. Ellis, Giuliana Iannaccone
Students present themselves; Team building
Walking tour around Lecco and ascent to the bell tower (400 steps!)
Day 3 (Lecco city)
Site visit to the project area
The Gerenzone River, the historical district of Laorca and the masterplan for the new lake promenade.
(in collaboration with Laorca Lab)
Day 4 (Lecco Campus)
Lecture + discussion: “THE ECOLOGICAL FUTURE OF CITIES”, Guest Lecturer; Teamwork
Day 5 (Lecco Campus)
Lecture + discussion: “THE THE URBAN BIO-LOOP”, Guest Lecturer; Teamwork
Day 6 (Lecco Campus)
Teamwork; Mid-term presentation; Social dinner
Day 7 (Tour on the Lake)
Visit of Bellagio – walking tour; Boat trip and tour of Tremezzina and Villa del Balbianello
Day 8 (Tour of neighboring city)
Visit of Bergamo – walking tour
 ICA Italy Lecco Presentations 
Day 9 (Lecco Campus)
Guest Lecturer; Teamwork
Day 10 (Lecco Campus)
Guest Lecturer; Teamwork

Day 11 (Tour of Milan)
Train to Milan
From Piazza Duomo to Navigli – walking tour
Visit of the Porta Nuova District
AFTERNOON FREE IN MILAN (with suggested itineraries)
Day 12 (Lecco Campus)

Day 13 (Lecco Campus)
Exhibition set-up Final presentation
Farewell dinner
Day 14
Check-out and travel day


2024 Program Fee - $1,350

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

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

Included in Program Fee:

  • Hotel accommodations in Lecco (2-person occupancy with private bathroom)
  • Transportation to Tremezzina, and Milan
  • Local transportation within Tremezzina, and Milan
  • Entry fees for all program activities / tours
  • Group dinner
  • On Call emergency assistance insurance

Not Included in Program Fee (estimated):

  • Round trip airfare ($1000)
  • Meals ($600)
  • Passport ($160)
  • Spending money /optional activities ($500)
  • Airport transfers ($50)

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.
  • Course Grading Scale:
Excellent            Good                        Adequate                   Poor                            Insufficient
A+       98+         B+    88-89              C+       78-79               D+       68-69              F    59 or less
A         93-97      B      83-87              C         73-77               D         60-67
A-        90-92      B-     80-82              C-        70-72

Dates / Deadlines:
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Summer 2024 03/01/2024
03/15/2024 06/09/2024 06/22/2024

Indicates that deadline has passed

This program is currently not accepting applications.