Focus Work Chair of the History and Theory of Urban Design (-)
Organizer: gta Institut
Lecturers: Prof. Dr. Tom Avermaete, Sanna Kattenbeck
Location: HIL D 75.1

Call for Applications. Vertiefungsarbeit
Uncovering the 'Hidden Project' of Zurich

Aldo Rossi, Luca Meda, and Gianugo Polesello, Competition Project Turin, 1962.


Zurich is a growing city and will need to accommodate ten thousand new inhabitants in the coming decades. However, this urban growth scenario is at odds with a set of changes during the last decades: people use ever more dwelling space; private cars have become the primary consumers of open space, and vast areas in the inner city have been reserved for working. Many of these developments are the result of specific urban policies and codes. These codes—often written by policymakers, lawyers, officials, and sociologists—are considered a ‘hidden project’ for the city: they determine the appearance of the city and the way people reside in it. The primary objective of this Vertiefungsarbeit is to uncover this ‘hidden project’ for Zurich. To understand and to analyse the spatial impact of urban policies and codes through the innovative use of drawing skills and tools. As part of the SNF-funded research project Codes and Conventions for Future Zurich by Prof. Jonathan Sergison (isup, AA Mendrisio) and Prof. Dr Tom Avermaete (gta, ETH Zürich), the results of the Vertiefungsarbeit will be showcased in a public exhibition and included in the book Zürich Atlas, which will be published by the end of 2025.


Are you interested in recent urban history and how specific policies on housing, mobility and work have radically changed the city and need to be rethought? Then this Focus Work might be of interest to you! Starting from a clear hypothesis, for instance, on how legislation allowed the private car to become the primary actor in the public space, students will investigate how this impacted the spatial character of the city. Participants can choose from the following thematic foci:

Vertiefungsarbeit 1: Housing. The 1970s Great Zurich Housing Crisis

Vertiefungsarbeit 2: Movement. Cars and the City: (Re-) Claiming Public Space

Vertiefungsarbeit 3: Heritage. Preservation and Urban Development

Vertiefungsarbeit 4: Employment. Courtyard Workshops and Mono-Functional Office Spaces

Vertiefungsarbeit 5: Public Buildings. School Pavilions: Modern-Day Agoras?

Archival Research

In the first step, students develop an “archaeology” of pre-selected, specific urban conditions prevalent in Zurich’s urban history. This archaeological research considers the city as an enigma to be deciphered. The archival research involves three phases of investigation, each with its distinct focus:
• defining the applied urban codes
• understanding the logic(s) of their emergence (e.g., social, economic, environmental, etc.)
• understanding the logic(s) of the built urban form
Explicitly, the students thoroughly investigate the urban codes, such as building laws, regulations, ordinances, or guidelines that define the specific urban condition. In this part, it is essential to comprehend the historical socio-spatial context and the legal framework(s) of each of the urban conditions to establish the foundation for the following analytical drawings. In this phase, the tutors assist the students in choosing and utilising the archival material.

Analytical Drawing

In the second step, the students transfer their archival findings into analytical drawings in the form of a collage of newly made drawings and archival information (plans, perspective, photograph), see Image 1: Aldo Rossi, La Città Analoga, 1976. These analyses will help to understand the selected area’s historical formation logic(s) and urban configuration within the broader urban mesh while visually illustrating its applied urban codes. Furthermore, the analysis will illustrate the historical sedimentation of the city and illuminate the superimposition of different projects at various urban scale levels. This cross-scale analysis through the lens of codes and regulations will also reflect on the intricate connections between public, collective, and private spaces, public transport routes, or open spaces, which still determine the urban fabric of Zurich. Hence, these drawings and analytical explorations are crucial in initiating a critical debate on how urban codes contribute to the city’s production and provide incentives for discussing present and future scenarios.

Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is a scientific tool used to evaluate sources. It gives a concise summary, evaluation, and reflection of each bibliography entry, providing readers with an overview of the source’s content and main concepts. Each student is required to submit an annotated bibliography, including the following components:
• bibliographic citation according to the MLA Handbook Citation Style
• main argument and topic: state the main informative points of the source
• personal conclusion: provide an opinion of the work or a reaction to the source

For further information please Download the Full Syllabus or contact us!


Sanna Kattenbeck