Study from the Japan Series, The Boyle Family, Miyazaki Prefecture, 1990

The architecture of the city lies between the buildings. Too complex in nature, form and design to be understood as a single space, ground has become the network of mobility that defines the contemporary city. Above the surface, life, visibility, architecture. Below, out of sight, waste efficiently removed in exchange for energy effortlessly provided. Between, the impervious membrane designed and constructed to seal and separate. It is described, used, and legislated in fragments; representation, mobility, safety, utility, expensive or cheap, hard or soft. But mostly hard. In Zurich 37% of the city is sealed. A modest proportion compared to many contemporary cities but enough to raise summer temperatures by three degrees compared with the surrounding countryside. Over-heating, or instant flooding from extreme weather is the norm in the sealed city.

But the ground is not a surface. The ground is a space whose natural and constructed metabolism above is determined by the actions of matter below. The city needs porous ground and generous planting to absorb and sweat in equal measure to support human and non-human life.

The urban heat island effect, floods and impoverished biodiversity are not the natural consequences of urbanisation but the result of design and construction. The in-between has been designed with as much care and attention as the architecture that stands beside it. From Bürkli to Europallee, architecture has constructed the ground.

Breaking down the concrete barrier between air, water and earth, between light and darkness, we will construct a new space where the actions below naturally support those above. Ecology has proved that the richness of life above the ground is determined by the complexity and community below. Ecological thinking, in collaboration with the Crowther Lab at ETH, will offer both literal and metaphorical method for re-imagining how the architecture of ground can enrich and protect the city.

We shall challenge the separation between ecology and architecture. Architecture is ecological. Nolli’s foundational notation of public versus private will be (re)turned inside out. It is the white space that needs our attention. Using the Atlas, we shall develop an approach to design based on observation and documentation through sampling. Crossing the Boyle Family’s Earth Pieces (1963-present) with Crowther’s ecological inoculation, fragments will form a new whole. Construction will determine scale shifts that extend far into contemporary territorial flows and deep into material structure. Starting in the garden and in the ground, earth works will be the primer for a new experimental garden prepared with the Crowther Lab which, will in turn, lead to actions across Zurich’s greatest continuous interior.

The Rubble Mountain, Lara Almarcegui, Sint Truiden, 2005
Materials: São Paulo, Lara Almarcegui, CREDAC, 2013
Dig and Dump, Hélène Frichot, Drawing 2019
Robin Hood Gaardens, Alison and Peter Smithson, London, 1972
Robin Hood Gaardens, Alison and Peter Smithson, London, 1972
Skogskyrkogården Cemetry, Asplund and Lewerentz, 1917
Veduta del Romano Campidoglio, George Balthasar Probst, 1760
Parc Henri Matisse, Gilles Clément, Lille, 1990
Place des Vosges, Paris, 1605
Emerald Necklace, Frederick Olmsted, Boston, 1870
Emerald Necklace, Frederick Olmsted, Boston, 1870
Katsura Imperial Villa, Ishimoto Yasuhiro, Kyoto, 1953
Buddhapada Stone, Gandhara India, 1st/2nd Century
Washing Tracks Maintenance Outside, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Hartford, 1973
Mile Long Drawing, Walter de Maria, Mojave Desert, 1968
The Jefferson Grid, America, 1785
Vertical Earth Kilometer, Walter de Maria, Kassel, 1977
The Jefferson Grid, Shabtai Pinchevsky, 2015
The newest addition to the Studio Garden, Hönggerberg, 2020
Fungi Samples, Crowther Lab, 2020
A Monster Soup Commonly Called Thames Water, William Heath, 1828
The newest addition to the Studio Garden, Hönggerberg, 2020
Ph-Value of the Soil, Crowther Lab, 2020
Heat Island Effect Map, Zurich, 2021
Surface Porosity Map, Zurich, 2021
Collecting and Getting Rid of, drawn by Luna Grünefelder and Nora Zeller, 2020
Pianta Grande di Roma Excerpt, Giambattista Nolli, 1748
Pianta Grande di Roma Inverted Excerpt, Giambattista Nolli, 1748
Continuous Monument, Superstudio, 1969
Sous les Pavés la Plage, Paris, 1968
Making Do and Getting By, Richard Wentworth, 1984
Europuddle, Krebs Herde Landschaftsarchitekten, Zurich 2020
Ghost Parking Lot, SITE, Hamden, 1978
Rethinking Residual, drawn by Judith Finschi and Saraja Gantner, 2021
After Alife Ahead, Pierre Huyghe, Münster 2017
Drill Sample Zurich Main Station, drawn by Wei You and Marco Busarello, 2017
Color Profiles of Representative Soils, America, 1930