After a few turbulent years in the wake of the reunification of Germany, Dessau has emerged as a lively commercial and educational centre with a population of around 100,000 people. Dessau is a city of cyclists. An extensive and well used network of bike lanes covers the entire city. Alongside trams, trains and busses, bicycles are the main mode of transport. Dessau is also a very green city: the Dessau-Wörlitz Garden Realm, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stretches for 142 sq. km (55 sq. mi) along the Elbe and Mulde rivers which border the city centre. The Federal Agency for the Environment is based in Dessau. Its building is itself a living experiment in cutting-edge sustainable construction and the library is open to DIA students interested in environmentally aware design.
The character of Dessau owes a great deal to its dense, complicated history. The traces of a regal past as the capital of the Principality of Anhalt stand side by side with GDR-era mass housing, Bauhaus landmarks and the facilities which preserve Dessau’s position as a major industrial centre. The half-timber houses in the oldest parts of Dessau now house the most popular student bars, eateries and model making supply shops.
Dessau hosts a number of theatres, galleries and performance venues. The Bauhaus remains a heavyweight in the cultural life of the city, hosting not only a varied series of temporary exhibitions but also the ZDF@Bauhaus concert series. The proximity of Berlin is also an asset, providing exhibition venues for DIA students every semester and an extremely varied, vibrant creative scene. Berlin can be reached in around 1.5 hours by regular, direct and affordable trains. Other major cities, including Leipzig, Dresden, Nuremberg and Prague (in the Czech Republic) are also within easy reach by road and rail. The nearest major airport is Berlin although Leipzig, Dresden and Nuremberg are well served by European low-cost airlines.