Eth Teaching

Fall '13

Urban Stories

Urban Design I

Lecture Course

  • Start: 19.09.2013, 8:00 - 9:30
  • ETH Zurich, ONA Focushalle
  • Prof. Alfredo Brillembourg & Prof. Hubert Klumpner
    Haris Piplas, Danny Wills


How did cities develop into the cities we live in now? Which urban plans, instruments, visions, political decisions, economic reasonings, cultural inputs and social organization have been used to operate in urban settlements in specific moments of change? Which cities are exemplary in illustrating how these instruments have been implemented and how they have shaped urban environments? Can these instruments be transcribed into urban operational tools that we recognize within existing tested cases in contemporary cities across the globe?

Urban form cannot be reduced to the physical space. Cities are the result of social construction, under the influence of technologies, ecology, culture, the impact of experts and accidents. Urban unconcluded processes respond to political interests, economic pressure, cultural inclinations, along with the imagination of architects and planers and the informal powers at work in complex adaptive systems.

Current urban phenomena are the result of an urban evolution. The facts stored in urban environments include contributions from its entire lifecycle. That is true for the physical environment, but also for non-physical aspects, the imaginary city that exists along with its potentials and problems and with the conflicts that have evolved over time. Knowledge and understanding along with a critical observation of the actions and policies are necessary to understand the diversity and instability present in the contemporary city and to understand how urban form evolved to its current state.

This lecture series will introduce urban knowledge and the way it has introduced urban models and operational modes within different concrete realities, therefore shaping cities. Urban knowledge will be translated into operational tools, extracted from cities where they have been tested and become exemplary samples, most relevant for providing the understanding of how urban landscape has taken shape. Case studies will be identified to compile documents and an archive, that we use as templates to read the city and to critically reflect upon it. The presented contents are meant to serve as inspiration for positioning in future professional life as well as to provide instruments for valuable contributions and interventions.


After each lecture, students are asked to produce an exercise based on the presented tools. The format of the exercise is an A3 or an A4, according to the given template. Each student has one week to prepare each exercise, and it should be delivered, in form of a physical copy, in the next lecture. (Language: preferably English, German).

The Exercise tasks are a valuable preparation for the Exam (Exam only relevant for the “Jahreskurs” students) therefore it is highly recommendable to finalize all weekly Exercise tasks, as an individually conducted piece of work.


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