ETH Zurich, Dept. of Architecture

Concrete Jungles

Seminar | Spring Term 2018
Dr. Emily Eliza Scott (History and Theory of Arch.), Prof. Christoph Kueffer (Environmental Sciences) ETH Zurich

Atocha Railway Station, Madrid, Spain. © Wikipedia, uploaded by Daderot

This seminar, co-taught by an artist-humanist and a natural scientist (i.e., from a non-designer’s perspective), has explored some of the key debates in ecology and ecological design today with a particular eye to the city, where many issues related to nature in the so-called Anthropocene come into sharpest focus.

Putting a number of specific urban ecological design projects at the center of our discussions, we have examined topics including: efforts to revitalize cities by way of greening them, wherein natural metaphors and economic imperatives collide; terrain vague, a concept with which both architecture and ecology have had multi-decade love affairs for its promise of liminal, as-yet underexplored space as well as the potential for a kind of ruinous, postnatural re-wilding; and the growing fortification of cities by built and green infrastructure meant to ward off rising sea levels, urban heat islands, and other perceived environmental threats.
Along the way, terms of core importance today in ecology (e.g., restoration, ecosystem services, resilience, wild nature) and the humanities (e.g., social nature, climate  justice, green capitalism) have been introduced.

By switching between alternative, co-dependent, and sometimes conflicting, viewpoints, we aimed to hone the skills for engaging in trans-disciplinary dialogue about the role of design in shaping nature in cities, especially in a world characterized by ever more intensive urbanization and extreme ecological instability.

︎ Link to Seminar Reader