A new approach to metropolitan water in the Furt Valley
Androniki Prokopidou, 2020
On the Swiss midland plateau, there are many examples of smaller regions such as the Furt Valley, which are faced with water shortages due to the combined effects of water pollution and climate change: our current extensive agricultural and industrial land use practices that are amplified by the extreme weather events of the changing climate. Hydroscopic ecology as an approach to design resilient territories implies the reform of land use practices in order to protect and regenerate local water resources and restore local ecosystems. At the heart of this approach lies the retention and local infiltration of (rain) water and the shift to less polluting strategies of cultivation and urbanization. Hydroscopic ecology advances the topography, the soil and water conditions as equal design agents alongside the built environment. One of the basic strategies followed is decentralized and holistic natural water management through a cyclical understanding of the water resource: no rain and waste water should be discharged from the area. Rather it will be collected, cleaned and stored in local aquifers where it can be distributed again according to the seasonal needs, all the while retaining enough water for potential extreme weather events.

Hydroscopic ecology proposes the rethinking of the concept of the “Wassergenossenschaft” – historical water supply structure of Switzerland and promotes the sustainable use of local water resources by completing the hydrological cycle and ensuring the water supply of current and future demands of peripheral urban areas, taking into account their significance for food production as well as their potential for population growth.

The hydroscopic approach in the Furt Valley aims at cleaning and recharging the currently heavily polluted upper aquifer by changing the land use practices and establishing a new stewardship towards local water resources. During this process – which could last up to five to ten years – a series of secondary closed-loop water cycles will increase the self-sufficiency of the Furt Valley in terms of its water supply.

This master thesis approaches hydroscopic ecology through a series of elementary concepts presented in five case studies across a section of the Furt Valley. The design concepts are based on the available geological information and typical water movement patterns.

We would like to thank Prof. Ursprung, Dr. Jiménez-Martínez, Prof. Oehen and Tim Klauser for sharing their knowledge and supporting this interdisciplinary work.

Androniki Prokopidou

Milica Topalovic
Professorship of Architecture and Territorial Planning, ETH D-ARCH

Philip Ursprung
Chair of the History of Art and Architecture, ETH D-ARCH
assisted by Tim Klauser

Ferdinand Pappenheim, Karoline Kostka

Joaquín Jiménez-Martínez,
Research Scientist and Group Leader at EAWAG. Lecturer and Research Associate at ETH D-BAUG

Bernadette Oehen, Dipl. Botanist, MAS ETH
Department of Socio-Economic Sciences
Group lead Consumers and Food, FiBL
European Countryside

When it was first exhibited in 1972, Edi Hila’s Planting of Trees was praised by his colleagues in the Writers’ and Artists’ Union. However, the playful exuberance of the painting was too heterodox for the communist regime. A year later, Planting of Trees – initially conceived as a metaphor for planting a progressive future for Albania – was denounced for disregarding the principles of Socialist Realism and Albanian Socialism. Hila was sent to a labour camp for three years and Planting of Trees was condemned to be locked in a dark room for nearly half a century.

Edi Hila’s painting represents both Albania’s paranoid past and the exciting momentum of progressive socialism. Today we can appreciate it anew and use it as a lens through which to look at the Albanian countryside and its future. What is the meaning of Hila’s perspective on planting trees in the context of a contemporary European territory and society? What will be the future of Albanian, and of European countryside? And could we, through a project on that countryside, also address urgent challenges for Europe—inequality, migration and ecological crisis?

Albania is still one of the least explored countries in Europe, yet its idiosyncratic wilderness and its cultural past have much to tell. Albania’s recent history has been characterised by radical territorial and structural transformations. The country’s past is marked by almost forty-five years (1946-1990) of extreme isolation under the socialist dictator Enver Hoxha. Self-sufficiency, the building of socialist villages and the education of the rural society were at the centre of Hoxha’s programme. Since the end of communism in the early ‘90s, Albania has embarked on a delirious rush towards the open-market economy which has reversed the urban-rural relationships. Surprisingly, agriculture still remains its main economy.

Southwestern Albania portrays multiple transformations occurring today across the Albanian countryside. It is a slow territory, now exposed to fast paced change. It is a palimpsest, where industrial and self-sufficient agriculture co-exist, and mass coastal tourism and mountainous eco-tourism are both booming. Despite these currents, the future of Albania’s countryside and its villages remain open. Our investigation will set out from the following questions: What can we learn from Albania’s mountainous countryside? How do we envision its future? Can our project be both social and ecological? Can we design new ways of living and working in the countryside?

During the semester we will take an investigative journey to Albania. We will be working on and travelling through the slow countryside of Përmet’s mountains, the tidal villages of Zagoria, the agricultural heritage of Drino river valley, the UNESCO city of Gjirokastër, the olive and tangerine orchards of the Ionian coast. The aim of the journey is to explore this cultural landscape and to prepare the basis for our studio work in Zurich.

Throughout the course we will deploy a range of performative research and design methods, including investigative walks, cartography, photography, and model building. All of the study sites require individual handling, fresh insights and careful approaches, but each student’s work will form a crucial contribution to a common vision. Together we will rethink the role of architects for the European territory.

This studio is the fourth semester in the series of European Countryside carried out by Architecture of Territory. Each studio represents a collective project, where individual students work together towards building a vision for the countryside. This semester focused on the South Western region of Albania.

Final Exhibition on Miro

Studio Europe Platform


Albania—Project on the Future of the Countryside (2050) is part of a collaboration with the Albanian National Territorial Planning Agency and Polytechnic University of Tirana – Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism. Students from the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism in Tirana were supposed to work in parallel on selected sites, coming together for the seminar week in Albania and a common final review in Zurich. Due to the confinement imposed by the measures taken against COVID-19 pandemic, we have revisited our collaboration modalities and have established a very intensive online communication. This has facilitated establishing joint groups composed of both Swiss and Albanian students. Experts, citizens, decision makers, journalists, fellow researchers and designers have worked with us in this online research, design, teaching and learning process.

Professor Milica Topalović

Teaching Team
Prof. Milica Topalović
Gyler Mydyti
Jan Westerheide
Muriz Djurdjević
Charlotte Malterre-Barthes
Metaxia Markaki
Nazlı Tümerdem

Polytechnic University of Tirana

Teaching Team
Denada Veizaj
Gjergji Islami
Edmond Pergega
Adonel Myzyri

of Albania

Adelina Greca
Mikel Tanini



Edi Hila, “Planting of Trees”, 1972, oil on canvas.

1. Edi Hila, “Planting of Trees”, 1972, oil on canvas.
2.Edi Hila, “House on Green Background 1“, 2005, acrylic on canvas.
3. Edi Hila, “Under the Hot Sun“, 2005, oil on canvas.
4. Edi Hila, “End of the Day“, 2010, oil on canvas.
SESSIONS ON TERRITORY is a series of public debates on the political economy of architecture and territory. In the name of efficiency and productivity, technology transforms spatial practices and impacts the built and natural environment, propelling us into the ongoing Anthropocene era. The seminar aims to reflect on how machines and systems of modern material culture such as AI and automation can be critically discussed in the design field—beyond techno-fix, toward a constructive response.
Every intervention by a guest speaker is followed by a panel discussion with invited respondents.
The Sessions on Territory are curated by Dr. Charlotte Malterre-Barthes for Milica Topalovic.

University of Art and Design in Linz
in conversation with Andreas Ruby and Andreas Kofler

Utrecht University
in conversation with Benjamin Dillenburger

Université de Neuchâtel
in conversation with Daniella Zetti and Jörg Stollman

Bauhaus-Universität Weimar
in conversation with Diana Alvarez Marin

Esri R&D
in conversation with Fabio Gramazio

Selected Mondays, 4 — 5.30 pm, ONA Focushalle
HS20 elective 1 ECTS credit
Contact: Charlotte Malterre-Barthes,
Hans Hortig,

All sessions will be recorded and published online. Thank you to Jörg Sovinz for the video recording.