Architectures of Correspondence

The city of Zurich, and all the buildings that compose it, are a concentration of resources. Their construction, their maintenance, their operation, and even their dismantling imply ceaselessly reaching far and wide into the territory of Switzerland and across the globe to keep fuelling the life and growth of this urban environment. Following the suggestion to reflect on ‘Enough’ and focus on plenty and limits, we propose to explore the reciprocal relationships and correspondences established by Zurich with the resources it depends upon. Those can be regarded as commons — resources both natural and cultural that affect the whole of a community – and following the classification proposed by commons theorist Michel Bauwens, can be material, immaterial, inherited or man-made.

A stone that clads a Zurich building is thus extracted in the Alps, then processed by human craftmanship and machinery, stored, transported to the city, and finally used in a construction process. Buildings and architectural cultures creates ripples, touching sites of extraction and production, practices of refining, transport, transformation of resources, affecting forests, quarries and gravel pits, needing reservoirs, dams, train stations, factories, highways and human skills. Anything that is built here creates holes, buildings, infrastructures and myriads of impacts there. Together, we will observe and map the sequence of spaces implied in specific resource flows, going back and forth between their points of origin, the intermediate spaces of transit or transformation they create, the city and buildings they give substance to. While taking into consideration some of the globalized implications of resource consumption, this master thesis will primarily focus on the territory of Switzerland, to allow first hand observations and visits of key locations, helping to produce situated research.

This investigation will enable you to critically reflect upon a resource flow as well as its correlated spatialities, and to take a position through the development of an architectural strategy corresponding and reacting to the resource in question and its manifold aspects. Your projects will focus on developing ‘spaces of resources’ and will investigate design questions such as: How to imagine new programs or institutions dealing with a specific resource and its use in architecture? How to make a given resource and its use more visible in the city, possibly by monumentalising or exposing what is usually kept hidden? How to inhabit, convert, reuse defunct sites of resource extraction and transformation such as disused quarries or concrete factories? What architectural interventions could help support and strengthen flows of new resources whose use should gain momentum in a context of ecological transition? Can rethinking our relations – or correspondences – to resources through architecture, going from extractive to reciprocal, also help us renegotiate the divide between nature and culture that is consistently exacerbated by the built environment?

Over the course of a few months, this reflection on buildings and their correspondences will cultivate a broad resource literacy, serving as a substrate for master thesis projects emerging from an awareness of how a building always affects the world way beyond its visible urban surroundings.

In case of questions, feel free to ask them to Galaad Van Daele here
Enrolment here