Undisciplinary is the personal wiki of Martin Zemlicka.

Laurent Stalder and Adam Caruso

02.10.2014, Kino Světozor, Prague

A double lecture organised by KRUH as part of their ETH themed lecture series. During Laurent Stalder’s lecture there were multiple breaks due to technical errors with getting his images on the screen. A too full cinema hall, I sat on the floor.


Laurent Stalder - Neither old nor new . The quest for an autonomous architecture

  1. Can Swiss architecture be defined or even grouped together? John Ruskin, over 100 years ago, thought that it can’t. He travelled the country and mentioned that there could not be a Swiss charachter to architecture, as Switzerland is in between Germany, France and Italy and itself follows these linguistic and cultural divisons.
  2. G. E. Kidder Smith also commented on this, saying how it was impossible to unify due to cantonal decisions.
  3. Cultural divisons are also used to justify designs, for example Jurg Conzett used the difference between the building culture of two cantons (one German and one Italian speaking) for his bridge linking them in Traversina. The German side represented by wood, the Italian side represented by stone.
  4. Yet, if we look at the 1970 competition for EPFL, to which the sven participants were purposefully invited based on their geographic location as to reprsent the whole of Switzerland, the designs have similar themes and approaches. They all contain themes of industry and almost metabolic growth.
  5. (at some point I stopped taking notes due to all the techincal interruptions)
  6. “In architecture, atmosphere begins where the building ends”. Since atmospheres is gas that surrounds a body.
  7. “To understand architecture through it’s atmosphere is mostly to understand it’s surfaces”
  8. Talks about Miroslav Sik and Analogue Architecture at ETH. The influence this had on treating architecture as an autonomous object.
  9. “Rossi was very useful for the city. There was lots of that he didn’t talk about, but he was very useful”.
  10. Jackques Herzog: The architect’s role is to simultaneously reflect nature but remain autonomous”.
  11. Slide showign HdM’s Prada store in Japan: The autonomous architecture object is losing its power precisely due to its autonomy, being eaten by commodification”.

Adam Caruso - The Fallacy of Modernism

  1. In a stragne way, as the first British Canadian teaching at ETH, he finds himself trying to go into the history of the school.
  2. Miroslav Suk, and his students, with Analogue Architecture were able to combine Rossi and Venturi at the ETH.
  3. He builds lots of models with his students. Now they are becoming almost orthodox in building models just as Sik’s students became orthodox at chalk drawings. The models are made of card with a laser cutter and coloured with chalk.
  4. He looks for references and the past of the discipline, and encouraging his students to do the same. It is very popular amongst them, learnign from the history of the discipline instead of looking at things like biology and programming.
  5. With the right tools, every context has qualities, even suburbia. This caused an argument with Hans Kollhoff, who was not supportive of Adam’s students using the Berlin of 1990 as a reference.
  6. Adam is researching 20th century modern architects who were not modernists. Has already created a book on Fernand Pouillon and Asnago and Vender.
  7. When Louis Suillivan said “form follows function”, he didn’t mean that form follows programme, but that one has to unify the two.
  8. “Architecture cultivates dumb material”.
  9. Today, if you want something like stone, you must use pre-cast concrete. These days, stone facades are just thin sheets which cause jointing problems, whereas in the past stone facades were self supporting.


There were no substantial questions, presumably because everybody was extremely tired from all the delays. One thing that did come to mind was that throughout this entire series of lecutres organised by Kruh, we have heard a lot about ETH and Swiss architecture (understandably so, as the series is only of ETH professors). Laurent Stalder himself used Rossi and Sik’s presence at ETH as some kind of force that unified Swiss architecture after the 70’s, yet, as somebody who has lived in Geneva, I can’t help but feel the absolute lack of anything said about the other big Swiss architecture school, EPFL.

My perception, admittedly limited as most of my exposure to ETH has been through these lectures while I am more familiar with EPFL, is that EPFL really is quite different. Many of talks in the series have made claims to the nature and charachter of the Swiss approach to architecture, I’d be curious to hear what role the differnet approaches of the three big Swiss polytechnics have to do with it.