The Persistence of the Forest
The Persistence of the Forest
Runa Barbagelata
My interest for the forest started with two observations: The first one was the fact that a quarter of the Zurich metropolitan area is covered by forest. Each location within the city of Zurich is a maximum of 3km away from the nearest forest. The image of Zurich’s urban landscape is dominated by the wooded moraine hillsides of the Uetli, Käfer, Zürich- and Zimmerberg, they surround the city and define its edge. The second fact that arose my interest for the forest was an article I read in 2015 about the forest, which included a survey about the question if forest protection should be relaxed. 10% were in favour of it, whereas 88% stated, “The forest is sacred to us.” The total number of participants in the survey was more than 10’000. What attracted my attention was not only the sheer number of people for whom the forest was important, but also the use of the word “sacred”. Somehow, it indicated a deeper relation between man and forest, one that wasn’t purely pragmatic. I wondered how this perception of the forest influenced the urban development of it. How was it possible, that in a country like Switzerland, where utilizable land has always been seen as a scarce and limited resource, the forest became sacrosanct?
Landscape Deployment
Landscape Deployment
David Koehn
It’s through a newspaper article that the question of mechanical snow systems arose. The last few winters have seen many smaller ski resorts struggling with very little snowfalls, showing the precarious economic balance of some alpine communities. Since the early nineties, we implemented what we called “mechanical snow systems” or “snow-culture” to provide skiing slopes with snow when needed. The recent dry and hot winters created a segregation between resorts with and without artificial snow. That difference is what the following essay tries to investigate. What is the impact of mechanical snow systems on Alpine Resorts?
Lac Léman
European Countryside (2)
European territory has become completely urbanised. The countrysides in the traditional sense have disappeared; the distinctions between the town and the country have been blurred. In contrast to the unambiguous urban transformations of cities, the processes of urban change in the countryside are massive, yet often unnoticed. Away from the public eye and professional scrutiny, these processes have created new urban identities and configurations in the formerly rural realm of Europe. The studio series European Countryside will explore the terra incognita of the countryside, and its radical mutations. The project aims to reinvent the contemporary countryside as a legitimate and critical subject of the discipline of architecture.

Lac Léman and its urbanised areas—extending from the lakesides into the Rhône valley and up the slopes of the Jura and Alps—will serve as the blueprint for the investigation of the Metropolitan Countryside. This is a territory where metropolitan life is embedded within the scenic landscapes of agricultural land and nature: the lake, vineyards and mountain slopes are not just a scenic urban backstage, but the key ingredients of the metropolis. The two poles of the “Léman City“, Geneva and Lausanne, define one of the most desirable international metropolises in the world. Its appeal to international institutions and businesses—and its high quality of life—can be directly attributed to the unique, countryside-like attributes of its urban landscape. Intrigued by this productive contradiction, Architecture of Territory initiates a two-semester project on Lac Léman. During the autumn of 2016, we will focus on the concept of Metropolitan Countryside, investigating the possibilities of bringing the countryside and the metropolis closer together: What are the benefits and potentials of agricultural land and nature for the contemporary metropolis? What are the new concepts of urban living, beyond “the city”, in the extended metropolitan setting?

The metropolis and the countryside are typically understood as relatively distinct and incompatible forms of territorial organization. But, there is also strong affinity between the two categories, and the case of Lac Léman offers surprising evidence for it. Here, the metropolis and the countryside have mixed together in unexpected ways: Lakeside vineyards have become the destinations of international elites; former villages overlooking the lake host global enterprises and headquarters; nature areas serve as metropolitan playgrounds, and, at higher altitudes, remote hamlets attached to transportation lines function as migrant worker neighbourhoods. The lake in the centre and the mountain peaks in the distance, form an inner and an outer urban horizon, and continue to supply boundless landscape imaginaries to the Léman City. At the same time, the presence of the Franco-Swiss border generates uneven development in the territory. The Lac Léman metropolitan region accounts for nearly one third of Switzerland’s cross-border workers, the frontaliers. The growing working population results in uneven patterns of urban living, usually expanding into agricultural land.

The urban networks encircling Lac Léman and the carefully staged, seemingly rural landscapes extending out from the lakeshores, can be experienced as “metropolitan countryside”: a seeming oxymoron, a unique and exciting situation. This is a new kind of territory, where urban living develops in the formerly rural land, through gradual transformation. The countryside-like qualities of low urban density, the presence of cultural landscapes and of nature areas, continues to supply value and identity to the Léman City.

In the panorama of European countrysides, the ambiguous case of Lac Léman will serve as a model for the study of the role of countryside for the 21st century metropolis. The semester will concentrate on researching and designing new patterns of urban living in the transnational Lac Léman setting. We will explore the potentials of cultural landscape, agriculture and nature as integral parts of a broad urban program—the key ingredients of the metropolis. Based on the Lac Léman case, we will describe metropolitan countryside as paradigmatic urban concept, a model for the European territory.

Students will work in groups of two. All projects will compose a common vision for Lac Léman. The work will be represented in the form of drawings, physical models and a book. All projects will be made public on Architecture of Territory website.

Investigative journey constitutes the core of the project. Travelling through the territory, we will experience its complexity and beauty. The field research will be organised in form of several group and individual excursions. The mandatory group trip will take place from 8-12 October 2016. Students who have obligatory courses on Monday, October 10, are required to organize their substitution or dispensation, in order to enrol. Additional 2-3 day individual trip to the research site will be required, and planned with the teaching team depending on the project task. Cost frame B.

The project will benefit from exchange with the EPFL Atelier Alps, led by Prof. Paola Vigàno and the Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio, territorial studio conducted by Prof. Frédéric Bonnet. The collaborative exchange of the three schools is initiated and supported by the Geneva based Fondation Baillard, with the goal to explore potentials of densification of the Swiss territory. The collaboration will result in a common exhibition and a book in the end of 2017.

The project on Lac Léman will extend over two semesters, HS 2016 and FS 2017. The students are invited to join one of the two semesters.

Architecture of Territory is looking for avid travellers and team workers with high motivation and independent position.

Travel — Integrated Trip 8-12 October (Cost frame B)

Assistant Prof — Milica Topalovic
Team — Hans Hortig, Karoline Kostka, Metaxia Markaki, Ferdinand Pappenheim, Thais de Roquemaurel
Program — Design Research Studio and Integrated Discipline Planning
Places — 18 Students
Start — 20.09, 10 am, ONA
Contact —
Cyril Dériaz, Robin Gevisier and Vincent Lai Yee Foo
Extending along the coast of Lac Léman and from the lake up to the alpine slopes, the Léman City doesn’t have a single center. The lake is the dominant landscape element, defining an empty space in the middle of the metropolis. Until the early 19th century the strategic value and everyday use of the lake were foregrounded; historic paintings represent lake scenery with fisherman. Houses built along the lake didn’t face the water but rather the landscape behind, and urban quarters close to the lake (like Geneva and Ouchy) weren’t popular. The lake was understood in a more pragmatic manner, as fishing grounds and water source, rather than a picturesque landscape featured with an alpine background.

Representative promenades along the shore were only developed in the early 1830s, with the advent of tourism in the region. The beauty of the lake and its surroundings quickly became famous and attracted a growing amount of international travellers, and tourist facilities introduced new economic potentials in the region. Lac Léman came to be understood as the core element of the metropolitan culture and identity. Today, we can understand Lac Léman not as a void, but as a unifying figure engaging the cities and settlements around it — a mediating element between the natural environment and the metropolis.

Many historic illustrations, such as Plan et panorama des bords du Lac Léman, depict the complex relationship between the lake and the settlements and have helped create its recognizable and desirable image. But how can we represent the contemporary Léman City? Entering a boat to reverse the common view of the metropolitan region, we want to set sails and explore the Léman City as seen from the lake. The view over water will help us create an “elevation“, or a panorama of the metropolitan region. In this reversed perspective, we want to explore the urban panorama as a research and design instrument.

Tamino Kuny and Alexander Schmid
The Lavaux Vineyard Terraces, stretching for about 30 km along the south-facing northern shores of Lake Geneva from the Chateau de Chillon to the eastern outskirts of Lausanne in the Vaud region, cover the lower slopes of the mountainside between the villages and the lake. Although there is some evidence that vines were grown in the area in Roman times, the present vine terraces can be traced back to the 11th century, when Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries controlled the area. It is an outstanding example of a centuries-long interaction between people and their environment, developed to optimise local resources and profiting from the “triple sun” effect: the rays from the sky, the rays reflected from the lake and the nightly release of heat captured in the vineyards walls during the day.

The protection of these exceptional vineyards dates back to 1977. As a reaction to the creeping urbanization from the growing towns of Lausanne, Vevey and Montreux, several political campaigns were launched upon which the canton Vaud created a constitutional law to conserve the landscape and its historic economy of wine growing. After a long submission procedure, protection by the UNESCO was finally granted in 2007. Now the Lavaux is one of eleven listed cultural properties in Switzerland. The world heritage status also brought about a very strict set of regulations on the development in the area. The heritage site is defined by two zones: a highly protected, and basically frozen, core zone between the lake shore and the break in the slope towards the north, housing most of the vineyards and villages. This central area is shielded by a “buffer zone” comprised of vines, pastures and forest patches.

The pristine terraces of Lavaux are an international tourist destination, attracting many related functions in the surrounding area: prestigious tourism academies and hotel schools for example, are scattered along the northern hillsides of Lake Geneva. With the complete suppression of development in Lavaux, the demand for urban expansion seems to have created an unintentional backside, stretching from Lausanne along the Riviera to Montreux and Vevey.

Sven Fawer, Tobias Stich and Vincent Phoen
The agricultural plain and Rhone river delta is located between the slopes of the Massif du Chablais in the west and the Alpes Vaudoises on the east. This area is currently one of the most dynamic locations absorbing urban pressure from Lausanne and Montreux. The left bank of the plain belongs to Canton de Valais while the right side is part of Canton de Vaud, but both are part of the cross-border cooperation, the “Chablais region”. In terms of urban typology, the cross-section of the valley shows a similar structure along the entire stretch: a flat valley plain is covered with agriculture and scattered industry clusters, and flanked by hillsides with villages. The Rhone plain is an important agricultural cluster and is one of the most fertile soil patches one can find around the lake. Indeed, most of its surface is registered as Surface d’Assolement, and it is surveyed as a very productive zone on the soil suitability map of Switzerland.

Agriculture, here, is intensive, mechanized, linked to agro-industry, and organized within big farm units, mainly above 50 ha (as opposed to the upstream small crops patterns). Those lands mainly produce grain, potatoes, and vegetables. The plain houses an important industrial cluster (with chemistry, metallurgy, mechanics, biotechnology, oil refinery) but also a large number of agro-industries (meat processing, import-export, drinks fabrication, industrial cheese, etc)

In 2009 the most recent flooding event occurred. This event made it urgent and crucial to take actions and envision a correction of the Rhone river-bed. This correction, in project since 2009, will be the third of its kind. The valley, once an unpredictable, ever-changing and hostile swamp (as depicted on a map from the period of Napoleon’s Rule) became dry and started to be inhabited, intensely cultivated and industrialized. The natural movements of the Rhone and the previous correction projects induced major changes in the land use and the landscape of the valley. It is to be expected that the third correction project might be decisive for the future of the valley. This is an opportunity to rethink and work-out the negotiation line between the forces of urban expansion, agriculture and water management, in a way that they do not oppose but coproduce the urban territory.
Elena Pibernik and Selina Strich
The area between Evian-Les-Bains and the Alps holds one of the most strategic resources of the region. Here the springs of Evian – potentially the most branded water worldwide – create a landscape of extreme value, as well as a tourist attraction.

Due to the water resource Evian-Les-Bains has been one of the most recognizable historic destinations on the shores of the lake, a high-market holiday resort – and spa-town. Since the 19th century, the interest for Salus per Aquam (health through water) generated the “spa-cities” and the Evian mineral sources very soon attracted numerous hotels and spa centers. The Belle-Époque, the golden age of hydrotherapy, brought about the area an intellectual and aristocratic clientele promoted by the construction of the port and railway station. In the beginning of 20th century, the hills and the lakeshore were already covered with noble houses, luxurious villas, expensive hotels, a theatre and a casino on the lakeside.

Today Evian is one of the major brands of bottled Natural Mineral Water (NMW) originating from preserved areas in France and owned by the global French enterprise Danone. Landscapes around Evian have acquired strategic value and have consequently been preserved to protect the water quality. Overlooking the lake Léman and the town of Évian, Plateau de Gavot (35 km2) is the surface of collection and the heart of the Évian mineral water impluvium: the place where the water infiltrates the soil. On the plateau, rainwater and snowmelt collected from the Alps are slowly filtered and purified via the multiple geological strata, starting a process that fifteen years later will result to the natural mineral water that comes out of the Evian springs few miles away, to be bottled under the brand name Évian. The Gavot Plateau wetlands were classified “protected zones” in 2008, within the framework of the international Ramsar Convention. The site’s protection is of environmental as well as economic importance because protecting the Gavot contributes to preserving the aquifer exploited by Evian Mineral Waters Ltd. and its right to use the “Natural Mineral Water” label, with is given out under strict regulations by the French government
Agriculture, being the main economic activity in the impluvium area, developed in this set-up a crucial role for the protection of the water resource. A specific regime of rules of agricultural cultivation, initiated by the Evian Mineral Waters Ltd., has been established in order to protect the watershed from the intrusion of pollutants. The aim is to protect the agricultural land of the plateau from development and intensification of the production while maintaining biodiversity.

Joshua Andres and Tobias Häusermann
La Rive Gauche, or ”the left shore” presents a specific situation we call Agri-Garden City. La Rive Gauche is Geneva’s wealthy suburbs where luxury residences and business facilities are found in a surprising and exceptional context of intensive cropland. The area, located in the vicinity to Geneva’s center, is also marked by multiple borders: national border France — Switzerland, cantonal border Geneva — Haute-Savoie and the border of Geneva’s agriculture free trade zone. Therefore it concentrates economic and cultural activities of an urban center next to peripheral locations and activates. In 2015 the Federal Statistical Office estimated 500.000 daily border crossings along the franco-swiss border.

The quality of its landscape environment and the desirable climate for international businesses made Geneva a sought-after place of residence, generating city growth since 1940. Given its comparably small size, the canton has repeatedly chosen not to be burdened with a hinterland, but rather concentrates most of its urban functions in close vicinity to the city center, on Swiss ground. Already in 1952, the cantonal government protected its peripheral farmland and restricted building activities, thus enhancing densification of the existing urban fabric and pressure on the available building land. Consequently, Geneva’s urban center today is surrounded by a wide green belt, mainly composed of the protected agricultural land, the “Zone Agricole”. Situated in this belt, la Rive Gauche still accommodates large rotation crops, cultivated by contract farmers, who lease plots from a few big regional landowners and companies.

In 1992, 40 years after the inauguration of the cantonal protection law, the federal spatial planning unit (ARE) introduced a Swiss-wide quota, requiring each canton to protect suitable land for crop rotation (Surfaces d’assolement Agricole, SDA). Accordingly, almost all of Geneva’s agricultural land was ‘frozen’ for urban development. In France, agricultural land is not subject to specific safeguard measures, but rather considered as a land reserve. This difference between the two countries, coupled with the growing number of frontier workers, has resulted in the growth of French bordering towns, creating an expansionary urban fringe which surrounds the frozen agricultural landscape of Geneva. This is a unique setting in which the absence of residential density on Swiss territory counters the actual demand. Afforded by the geographic proximity and financial opportunities of working and dwelling in the cross-border situation, the urban pressure is released across the border to the French Haute-Savoie. Geneva’s conurbation has gradually changed scale, encompassing the neighboring French municipalities. The result is an unlikely situation in which agriculture fields, occupy the most desirable land of Léman City.
Sara Graf, Francesco Lupia and Urban Steiner
As part of the metropolitan region of Geneva, the cross-border territory of the Plaine de l’Aire-Saint Julien is highly urbanized but still hosts a huge variety of agricultural lands, from extensive greenhouses to large-scale crop production (maraichage). Less then 10 kilometers away from the city center, the undulating landscape around the French border town of Saint Julien is shaped by the Aire river and its many side arms. As a directly connected zone of expansion of the city, the area saw extensive population growth during the last decades and in the context of Geneva’s dwelling crisis, it is considered one of its main battlefield.
Today, more than 40% of Saint Julien’s inhabitants commute to Geneva for work and a new cross-border tram connection to the city center is in planning. Inversely, on the French side, large-scale leisure enterprises (including a large scale disco, a water theme park and a casino) developed and attracted equally Swiss as well as French customers.

Although heavily influenced by the commuting behavior of its residents, territories around Saint Julien, both on the French and the Swiss side of the border are mainly dominated by agriculture.
In spite of this common characteristic—the huge increase of population next to highly productive agricultural land—, the Plaine de l’Aire has been shaped by very uneven development. On the Swiss side, the agricultural land has been protected as necessary nourishment reserve. Since 1972 the federal law on the protection of crop rotation required the canton of Geneva to protect agricultural land and secure food supplies. Thanks to this measure, Geneva developed a dense urban center with a wide agricultural green belt.
On the French side, agricultural land remains unprotected and is rather considered as building reserves. But also the land around Saint Julien received considerable attention through the introduction of a free trade zone, mainly serving for the exchange of agricultural products. Hundreds of farmers export their production to Geneva without paying taxes and even Swiss farmers own and cultivate more than 1000 hectares of land on the French side. Totally, around 70% of the agricultural production of the free zone is imported to Geneva.
Natascha Sarah Kellner and Jeanne-Marie Léchot
At the west side of Lac Léman, only a few minutes from Geneva Airport and city-center one finds a highly surprising urban situation—the agricultural periphery of west Geneva discreetly hosts one of the largest scientific research centers in the world. Cern, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, was established in 1954, at the northwest of Geneva on the Franco-Swiss border. It operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world, with the participation of 22 member states and with approximately 16’500 employees. Cern can be understood as the key testimony to the unexpected culture of innovation in this region. At 175 m below ground level lays the Large Hadron Collider(LHC) —the most complex experimental facility ever built, and the largest single machine in the world. It was built between 1998 and 2008 in collaboration with over 10,000 scientists and engineers from over 100 countries, as well as hundreds of universities and laboratories. It lies in a tunnel of 27 kilometers in circumference, crossing the national borders of France and Switzerland, creating a giant underground footprint that frames the agricultural land above.

Being the largest employer of global scientific talent, Cern brings to the area a specific demography of highly skilled scientists. In parallel, Cern has also attracted into the area scientific research in related disciplines, as digital technologies, medical research, genetics, pharmaceutics etc. As a result, the entire Lac Léman region stands-out as a landscape of knowledge and a global center of scientific activity, comparable to the Silicon Valley.

The countryside-like quality of the area does serve as the attraction for the international scientific elites. The landscape surrounding of Cern can be described in terms of rural or post-rural imaginary of living and leisure in the countryside: one encounters horse ranges, bio-farms, fruit markets, golf-courses, cycling paths in the fields and so on.
Of course, this tendency also generates conflicts as the pressure to construct new housing continues to increase. At the same time, the growing need for low-income housing contributes to the pressure: lower-skilled workers are generally priced out from the expensive Swiss side. As a result, real-estate construction activity is mainly manifested in the French territory, generating peculiar patterns on the agricultural land.
Alessandro Accardo and Martin Arthur Ineichen
With a total expanse of 1.900 ha, la Côte stretches along Lac Léman’s north shore from Nyon to Lausanne. The region south of Jura is typically referred to as l’arc and branded as the local ‘gold coast’. Located around 100 m above the lake water level, the landscape faces Mount Blanc and the Alpine panorama. Set half way between Geneva and Lausanne, the sloping area is inevitably influenced by the main poles of the Léman City.

Until the 20th century, la Côte mainly consisted of farming villages. Vineyards along the coastal slopes and large-scale wheat fields in the plateaus characterized the area.
In recent decades, an increasingly international society inhabits the former rural structures often trying to sustain the ‘originality’ of the apparent bucolic set up. The illusion of an intact cultivated landscape emerges. The former family-based agricultural land has become an urban live-and-work zone set amidst the vineyards, apple and cherry orchards, and decorative flower fields. It is maintained by international migrant workforce, often arriving during the harvest season from southern parts of the EU. The vineyards along ‘La Rue Vinoble’, a 50 km long path, passing the villages of Vinzel, Féchy and Bursins, play an especially important role for the identity and marketing of the region: This prestigious, low-density area includes a broad urban mix of residential developments, international organisations and schools, business and corporate headquarters, luxurious estates and leisure facilities. Programs, previously assigned to the city, are now spread in the territory in a collage with rural relicts.

The exceptional quality of life, the multitude of work opportunities and low taxes attract a high proportion of wealthy residents and international professionals. Since the early 2000’s the Canton of Vaud has actively pursued policies that cater to international investment. Among them are the introductions of ‘strategic priority development sites and tax benefits for companies with profits primarily generated abroad’ (“special-status companies”). Many companies have since relocated to the region and tax revenues on profits have gone up. In 2014, approximately one-third of the 100 best start-ups in Switzerland were located in Vaud.
What is the ocean as a territory? Once imagined as a boundless space, largely untouched by human activity, are oceans still a common horizon bringing together the cities and peoples along their shores? Can the open nature of the sea resist the transformative forces of the carved and conflicted earthly masses it is enclosing? Is the ocean space shaped by the strategic control of resources and trade routes? What is the role of the architects in investigating, describing and visualising the urban dynamic of the ocean space? Can ocean territories be designed?

Taking different perspectives, from history, to activism, geopolitics, and design, travellers who have been crossing the global ocean following refugee migrations, onboard container ships and along ancient maritime routes, contribute elements for an urban portrait of ocean territories.

Travellers is a series of lectures and conversations about ways of perceiving, studying and portraying urban territories. Each of the guest speakers is a traveler—a person who places the direct observation and experience of urban landscapes in the core of their practice.

On Refugee Camps of the Western Sahara:
conversation with Samia Henni

On Urbanisation of the Sea:
conversation with Christian Schmid

On the Opacity of World Trade:
artist collective
with special guests

On Ambivalent Territories of ‘In-Betweenness’:
conversation with Dubravka Sekulic

On the Mediterranean and its New Imaginary:
architect/researcher and dean at
the Royal College of Art, London
in conversation with Marc Angélil and Emily Eliza Scott

Selected Mondays, 5.30 – 7.30 pm, ONA Focushalle

HS2016 elective 1 ECTS credit
Contact: Hans Hortig,
Ferdinand Pappenheim,