The semester course is treated as a design laboratory, aimed at obtaining new insights into architectural topics. This process can involve typological examinations of specific functions (such as schools, libraries, theatres, art spaces) or a deepening of knowledge about materials, about building structures in relation to space, about the expressive potential of facades, or about specific topical focal points (such as sound/space in music venues, light/structure in studio halls and representation/publicness in town halls).
Each course is accompanied by a comprehensive booklet that serves as a guideline for the students throughout the course, containing the topical focuses, example buildings, project sites, as well as additional texts and the semester schedule.
At the beginning of the semester the students analyse interesting historical and contemporary buildings relevant to the topic; produce volumetric, interior-space and facade models; and, if necessary, re-draw key floor, section and facade plans. The results are presented to the class collectively, and remain consultable during the entire semester in the form of a small display in the design atelier. This material constitutes the collective knowledge and discussion basis for the design course.
Because a concrete familiarity with the location and knowledge about the context are considered by us to be likewise vital points of reference and sources of inspiration, the design sites are all in Zurich – either chosen from two to four pre-selected sites or freely chosen by the students, and analysed at the beginning of the semester on city walks.
Every student project is developed individually, whereby the design process – from the first concept ideas, to sketches and volume studies, up to plans at various scales, spatial models and visualisations – is supervised in each case in person. Regular reviews with the assistants are held weekly and with the professors fortnightly.
The design process is enhanced with special tours, guest talks, and in conjunction with specialists and professionals. For the closing critique the projects are presented in front of a “jury” of visiting experts and intensively discussed. On occasion the students’ works are also made public to wider interested groups outside the university environment.
In addition, the in-depth treatment of the topic areas and the findings from the building analyses undertaken during the design semesters act as the impetus for research projects at the chair. To date these have culminated in three separate publications dealing with residential towers, libraries and office buildings.