ETH Studio Basel
ETH Studio Basel

This website presents a selection of publications by the ETH Studio Basel as open access. ETH Studio Basel, Contemporary City Institute, was founded in 1999 as an institute of urban research at the ETH Zürich Department of Architecture by architects Roger Diener, Jacques Herzog, Marcel Meili, Pierre de Meuron and by urban sociologist and geographer Christian Schmid. Operating over two decades until 2018, the ETH Studio Basel created groundbreaking research on urbanisation and territory, tightly linked to the pedagogy of the design research studios.

Switzerland: An Urban Portrait (2006) was ETH Studio Basel’s first major project, motivated by rapid urban change. Echoing Henri Lefebvre’s thesis of the complete urbanisation of society, the project engaged in a comprehensive investigation of the territory of the entire country, tracing urbanisation processes that had shaped it and identifying potentials emerging in the new conditions. With its conceptualisation of Switzerland beyond the urban-rural divide, the project and the book revolutionised the public discourse and institutional approaches to spatial planning. It also initiated a novel approach to research in architecture, based on specific methodologies including ethnographic fieldwork methods and cartographic exploration and analysis. It has been foundational to the development of a territorial approach to urbanisation. Several additional territorial studies on Switzerland elaborated over the years culminated with a call for designing the ”unbuilt” in achtung: die Landschaft (2016).

ETH Studio Basel applied this territorial approach developed on the concrete example of the urbanisation of Switzerland, also to other urbanising territories. Starting with analyses of Naples and the Canary Islands, the notion of specificity emerged as a crucial concept: each territory is distinguished by certain characteristics, which underpin the production and reproduction of its own specificity. In the following years, Studio Basel analysed very different cities, or urban territories, from Hong Kong and Casablanca to Nairobi and Belgrade, resulting in publications such as The Inevitable Specificity of Cities (2014) and Belgrade. Formal / Informal: A Research on Urban Transformation (2012). A comparative analysis of extended urbanisation in different world regions was published in the book Territory: On the Development of Landscape and City (2016).



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ETH Studio Basel Open Access: A Public Launch

At the end of 2018, the ETH Studio Basel Contemporary City Institute closed its doors, but the work created in the framework of this unique constellation continues to hold great relevance for architects and urban researchers. With this event, we are (re)launching ETH Studio Basel’s main publications as open access and making them available to a broad public on this website. Together with collaborators, assistants, and students, we will reflect on our projects and experiences, discuss what we have learnt, ask what is still relevant today, and explore how we continue to develop and apply the concepts and methods of the ETH Studio Basel.

To see the video recording of the launch event, please click here.

ETH Studio Basel Archive Website

The original web archive presented here offers a detailed insight into the research and pedagogy of ETH Studio Basel between 1999 und 2018. Each year, two design studios were offered by two teaching groups, the first led by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, and the second by Roger Diener and Marcel Meili. Experts and collaborators supported the teaching, of which urban sociologist and geographer Christian Schmid made a central contribution.

The investigations at ETH Studio Basel and documented here in the archive focused on three main topics: Switzerland and its specific urban character, portraits of international cities, and territorial research comprising the analysis of extended urbanisation in different world regions. 

ETH Studio Basel Collaborators 1999–2018

Prof. Jacques Herzog, Prof. Pierre de Meuron, Charlotte von Moos, Marija Blagojevic, Julian Oggier, Prof. Marcel Meili, Prof. Roger Diener, Christian Mueller Inderbitzin, Mathias Gunz, Vesna Jovanović, Liisa Gunnarsson, Lisa Euler, Martino Tattara, Metaxia Markaki, Natasa Maglov, Claudio Kuenzler, Yves Guex, Ligia Nobre, Shadi Rahbaran, Christina Holona, Simon Hartmann, John Palmesino, Ann-Sofi Rönnskog, Bart Lootsma, Esther Dürrholder, Emanuel Christ, Martin Josephy, Pascal Kallenberger, Anne Schmidt, Monika Streule, Ying Zhou, Milica Topalović, Manuel Herz, Rolf Jenni, Jasmine Kastani, Prof. Dr. Christian Schmid, Isabelle Abele, Franziska Singer, Valentin Buchwalder, Philipp Frisch