The Garden: Décor de Fête

1/26 Charles de Beistegui's roof-top apartment in Paris, 1929 


Autumn begins with a doppelgänger in the garden: the walled sun court of the roof-top residence and garden Le Corbusier built for Charles de Beistegui in Paris. With an inventory of 3’800 bricks, the necessary gravel and mortar; a magnolia tree and twenty-four metres of hedge (genus: acer campestre), the studio sets about making their own translation.




  On July 16th 1929, the aristocrat Charles de Beistegui commissioned Le Corbusier to build an apartment on top of his grandmother's “hôtel particulier” at 136 Champs-Élysées. The apartment is, by most accounts, one of Le Corbusier's most paradoxical and mythical works. While it reflects many of the architect's well-known concerns (light and circulation) some of its elements are of a purely decorative and surreal character uncommon to his oeuvre. These aspects become especially noticeable in the context of de Beistegui's taste: an avid collector of surrealist art with a clear penchant for both exaggerated imagery and overstuffed furniture, there remain nevertheless spaces within the apartment whose decided surreality may be called out without necessarily invoking the influence of Le Corbusier's client.


  The apartment is crowned by a singular exterior room that hosts a false fireplace and mantel, a couple of chairs and a mirror. The garden becomes an optical instrument to oversee Paris' iconic silhouette and its monuments—a mystifying space that insists on a surrealist experience instead of presenting a surrealist pastiche. By introducing an unexpected encounter within the scheme of the apartment, Le Corbusier voluntarily enhances this inexplicable sense of alienation, and in doing so echoes brilliantly the surrealist venture of André Breton’s Nadja (1928).


 The Garden: The Third Cycle of Planting


Garden Rules

1. Each semester’s work is a finished project as well as a canvas for the next.

2. Think in scales: days, weeks, months and years.

3. Be carefull towards soil.

4. Work like a gardener with the precision of an architect.

5. Work like an architect with care of a gardener.

6. Be aware of the weather conditions and work with them.

7. See the weeding as the art of dividing the useful from the less useful.

8. Remove the soil from your shoes and maintain cleanliness.

9. Plant and construct to preserve and improve the existing condition.

10. Everything in the garden can be reused.

11. Unexpected garden projects can be added at any time.

12. The garden is a room from which nothing ever leaves.





Pavilion of Reflections

1/36 Pavilion of Reflections on Lake Zurich arriving at Bellevue at 5am on 27 May 2016 

Manifesta 11 will be open in Zurich from 11 June to 18 September 2016. We have been invited to work with students to design and build a Pavilion of Reflections floating on Lake Zurich as the reception building for the European art biennale. The Pavilion of Reflections will be the meeting point for showing art works produced in the city during Manifesta as well as acting as a public swimming bath during the day.

Our students have designed and built a timber island consisting a public bath, surrounded by a cinema with tribune seating,  a bar, sundeck and tower. The structure floats on steel caissons.

10 May

The steel substructure and deck are complete.The space frame roofs, prefabricated last winter are being installed.


20 April 2016

The Pavilion of reflection is on the move. The timber structures, prefabricated in Winthertur are being transported to the lake side for assemble.

The floating steel base has been fabricated and is being pulled across the lake for final assembly at Mythenquai



March 2016

Prefabrication by the students of the Pavilion of Reflections has been completed. The steel floating caissons and substructure is being constructed on the bank of lake Zurich. Assembly of the prefabricated timber elements will start in May and the whole pavilion will be dragged across the lake into position in Bellevue in late May.

Manifesta 11 and the Pavilion of Reflections will open to the public for 100 days on 11 June 2016.



Making Ground



We started the year with a construction project, but unlike previous semesters, where our goal was to build full size buildings, we wanted to explore a way of making in the Garden, that would be a continuous project of layers through time, where the architecture began with what others had done before us and will be continued after we have left.



The task was to design and make a ground, to re-imagine the meaning and physical conditions of the Garden taking into account entrances; paths; composting; distribution of water; space to work; space to prepare and serve food; places to store tools, materials and personal effects; space to change clothes. To precisely and carefully construct ground presented various challenges and design issues we can encounter in architecture at all scales.



Manifesta 11

1/16 Aldo Rossi, Teatro del Mondo, Venice, 1979 


Manifesta 11 will be held in Zurich from June to September 2016. We have been invited to work with students to design and build a Pavilion of Reflections floating on Lake Zurich as the reception building for the European art biennale. The Pavilion of Reflections will be the meeting point for showing art works produced in the city during Manifesta as well as acting as a public swimming bath during the day.

We are inviting applications from Masters students in D-Arch to participate in a collaborative masters design studio to design and build the pavilion between August 2015 and January 2016. Participation will count as a semester design studio but will take place off-calendar in three stages.


The project continues a series of collaborative design and build projects we have completed over the past five years. The Pavilion of Reflections will be the most ambitious in scale, location and use. It will create the central public space for Manifesta and will be for three months a creative and social meeting point for the whole city.



This program does not require previous experience in carpentry or craftsmanship (although all experience is valuable) but it does require a willingness to think through making, to be physically and intellectually engaged in the complete collaborative task.

Alongside the collective core, each student will be required to develop an individual thesis work focusing on a specific topic elaborated from the common project. The case study will be an illustrated written thesis of 5,000 to 7,000 words researching and reflecting on either aspects of material and technical knowledge or on the history and theory of landscape, craft, construction, etc… Each thesis will be individually tutored throughout the semester.
We will cary out a series of workshops that are thematically related to our building project and will give insights into history of making as well as hands-on advise on timber crafting.
This masters course will be happening outside the usual ETH calendar. We will start the course on the 4th August 2015 and end the course on the 17th February 2016. Please Note that Phase I and Phase III will be of higher intensity than a normal semester. Phase II (duration of the regular semester) is forseen to have 3 overall meetings that can be used to refine the design, coordinate work and discuss the thesis.


For more information on the Manifesta please visit


To Apply:
Please send examples of work on 2 sheets of A3 and a short letter of motivation.


All students from the 5th semester onwards can apply. (max. 32 students)
Excellent design skills needed. Interest and experience in contemporary art, making and construction and advantage but not essential.

The Deadline for the application is the 30th June.You will receive feedback latest by 3rd July if you are accepted. Please apply via email to following address:

The Pavilion of Reflections requires several consents from statutory authorities outside of the ETH control. While every effort has been made to ensure that all permissions are obtained in time, we cannot guarantee that the project will be granted permission. All students must accept that participation does not guarantee that it will be built.

One of the key dates in the statutory process is 14th August 2015. Should the project be delayed or cancelled before this date, students will be able to enroll in another studio in the usual way.

 Alongside the project you will be required to work on a thesis that is related to the project. The thesis hand in is 16th December 2015. For the project you will be working in groups, but will handing in your individual process book by 16th Febuary 2016. These two parts will be marked and this will result in your semester grade.

You will receive the regular 13 credit points for the semester and additional 3 credit points for the integrated discipline construction.

Contact person
Boris Gusic














The Garden



We have been given 1300 m2 on the ETH campus, a space marked off by a simple fence. We are the pioneers of this new garden. We will dig holes, realise the weight of soil and the speed at which grass grows. It will change your relationship to nature. 







This garden is a new model of learning, one that does not have the parameters of a semester, school year or degree course. Instead, like a science laboratory, it is a framework for innovation over time. We will consider the consequences of our choices in one semester, one year, five years, twenty-five years and fifty years. We will learn from growth and decay, the spectrum of natural processes and the patina of time. Gardens thrive while architecture ages: our site will be an opportunity to explore this reality first-hand. 


Our project will be a finished piece in itself. But it will also be the foundations of the next. The process of adaptation lies at the heart of architecture and at the core of this design studio. The garden is a room from which nothing ever leaves and where everything can be boiled, burnt, eaten and reused. Unlike previous group projects in the studio, the garden is not a pavilion that will be dismantled at the end of the semester. We and those that come after us will need to care for and nurture it. We will learn from success, failure and surprises. As the garden becomes more established fencing may become obsolete, trees might be coppiced to make social spaces, furniture might be burned to fertilise the soil. It will be a form of layered bricolage that encourages you to engage with the social, historical and scientific attributes of nature. 


The design and development of the garden is broken down into six tasks that unfold simultaneously. We are asked to analyse, structure, plant, populate, build and maintain. As the first students to enter the garden we will be particularly responsible for analysing the soil conditions and preparing the ground. Soil is not a line at the bottom of the page, it is a living substance: it can be healthy; it can be unhealthy; it can be suitable for very different things. 



Like with any true experiment, analysis and data collection lies at the heart of its success. Students will conduct an ongoing survey of the garden that highlights the layering and reconfiguring of each semester cycle. One year it may be a medicinal garden, another year it may be a bird sanctuary or a lake. History is an indelible part of the garden but can be peeled away in survey form. 









Working in Stages 17.09–07.10.2014




We will start the year with a real, full size building project. The new curators of the DARCH / gta exhibition programme, Niels Olsen and Fredi Fischli, have invited us to produce a series of structures or stages to host an ambitious exhibition programme. Based on the notion of a stage, they are taking the exhibition beyond the gallery and into the department. They are inviting the ETH community to engage in wider notion of purely didactic information and experience a series of social and collective events around different architectural themes.

The first three exhibitions will open simultaneously on 7th October:

Archizines, A Survey of New Architecture Publishing
is a travelling exhibition of the recent independent architectural journals. Archizines is essentially a reading and discussion space where we can browse, study or relax.



Performative Archive: Skopje, Discussing Urban Reconstruction will be part archival and part research on the unfinished plan led by the United Nations to reconstruct Skopje after an earthquake designed by a network of international architects. The exhibition is part of a phd dissertation by Damien Kokalevski who discovered these very rare documents. He will install his working space with the exhibition and interact with interested visitors on the motivation and legacy of this extraordinary lost work of international collaboration.


Atlas, Studio Tom Emerson will be a series of rooms showing the Atlas surveys of postindustrial cities alongside the construction projects made collectively by students since 2010.



On the roof will be an amphitheater for talks, concerts or eating lunch overlooking the campus. And in our studio, we will build a mobile wall for crits and displaying work in progress. The structures will be re-used for events, seminars and future exhibitions. They will be added to, reduced or transformed in ways we cannot predict. The exhibition is conceived as a series of unique public spaces around the department like a Roman city organized around public monuments; the baths, the colosseum, the arena, etc… Each structure will present one of the three exhibitions in specific spatial and functional qualities.



We will start our journey into construction at the sharp end of contemporary building technique. This is not the world of the ancient craftsman or exquisite digital manufacturing. It is the brutal face of contemporary commercial vernacular; the stuff the modern world is really made of. Offices, hotels, mass housing. Cheap metal system, engineered and manufactured for economy and speed. Expedient it may be, but it also has a great potential for beauty. We will use and subvert the system to make striking stages of metal, plasterboard and colour.


The vernacular has long been a source of inspiration for modern architecture. But the vernacular is often confused with a language traditional form and technique. Vernacular is in fact the way we do things collectively, the most standard and shared way to form the environment. The vernacular is no longer traditional farm building and barns, it is municipal signage, lines painted on roads, silicone joints, corporate smoothness wrapping cheap metal framing.

This has long been known in contemporary art practice. Dan Graham in particular has used the language of corporate architecture for extraordinary experiments in perception. Half reflective glass and stainless pavilions overlay landscapes and users in slick fragmented images. In architecture however, this ubiquitous language remains hidden as if we are ashamed of our own progress.

Our metal stages will be celebration and subversion of the genre. It will speak in the language of our own building. Behind its coppery reflected shell, the HIL is an essay in metals; framed, folded, extruded snapped together with modular efficiency. We will grow a garden of glorious metal weeds within.


    Design process
The project will be about working together. The content of the exhibitions has already been prepared and curated. The forms have been agreed with the curators to fulfill the exhibition requirements and meet fire regulations. We will work in groups to produce the five structures.

What is needed now is execution and interpretation. One could see the project as a kind of orchestral performance. The piece has been written but it requires all the musicians in the orchestra to play together to bring a new interpretation. It requires great virtuosity and collaboration from every musician to bring the piece to life.

Working in Stages will be a great ensemble piece. The strategic moves have been made but the pleasure and beauty will be in the detail; in the invention, precision and refinement of the smallest parts to come together in perfect harmony.


A Belvedere for Zollikon



We have been commissioned by the Verein Zolliker Kunstfreunde to design and build a belvedere in Zollikon at the intersection of several landscape trails overlooking the lake. We will work collaboratively to produce a permanent public landmark for walkers to pause and view the surrounding landscape.


Please join us for the opening on the 6th of September, 6pm at the Site in Zollikon.










The Monk's Parlour, 20.09–16.10.2012


Together, we will build a tower housing an elevated room like a cave released from its enclosing mountain. The Monk’s Parlour buried at the rear of John Soane’s extraordinary house-museum in London, fuses objects, space and light into a layered universe of its own; one of memory, ancient and ruined but also one of abstraction and multiple horizons layered in deep labyrinthine top lit voids. We will reinterpret Soane’s inner world as a free standing pavilion reinvented for our contemporary world. Made from reclaimed timber, the structure will open the semester’s tectonic heart. Collective construction will lead to designing the room and the city – or more precisely, a room as a city.


Scribes & Squares, 20.0905.10.2011


To open our semester, we will ask you to design and build a transportable, modular theatre from reclaimed material. We will work together with the theatre class of ZHDK. We are looking for a performing space that is easy to assemble and disassemble. It should

be possible to transport our structure fast to different public spaces

in the city.



We will look at traditional timber construction and the simplicity of the details and joints. Unlike previous constructions, our primary material is substantial and the success of the design will lie in the relationship between the assembly of complex timber joints and performance.

The project will combine ancient timber construction with the rules of prefabrication, which we shall see, are not so far apart. It will be a conversation between scribes and squares.



We will bring our stage to the city and the actors of ZHDK will prepare a small play for our theatre. The first play will be in the beginning of December 2011.






Jaú, 22.02–08.03.2011



To open our semester, we will ask you to desgin and build a structure from the material of the ‘96 Hands Pavilion’ and a few added bits. The new summer pavilion will be an interpretation of Vilanova Artigas’ Jaú Bus Station that was built 1973–75.



Transformation from one kind of material into the other may appear like a radical shift but looking at the Bus Station as a result of timber formwork will help to re-invent the structure and space. The materials come from wooden palettes with nothing more to carry, hoarding with no construction work to enclose and old timber beams cut too short to span. They may appear today as rubbish, valueless and passed utility and even passed beauty.



We will seek to find new ways to assemble them into public space that transcends their origin. Using simple hand made assemblies, the modest cast offs will be mined for new constructional and structural potential. Gravity, hammer and nails and handsaws will form the grammar of the new structure. This is not about junkyard chic; our entry into the world of bricolage is about making beautiful things from the world that surrounds us, embracing scarcity as the font of invention.




96 Hands, 21.09–05.10.2010


Welcome to the studio. To open our first semester at the ETH, we will ask you to design and build a structure from discarded materials, reclaimed and re-used to provide shelter and a place to meet - the primary purpose of architecture. Wooden palettes with nothing more to carry, hoarding with no construction work to enclose and old timber beams cut too short to span may appear today as rubbish, valueless and passed utility and even passed beauty. We will seek to find new ways to assemble them into a public space that transcends their origin. Using simple hand made assemblies, the modest cast offs will be mined for new constructional and structural potential. Gravity, hammer and nails and handsaws will form the grammar of the new structure. 


But remember Vitruvius; alongside firmness and commodity there should also be delight. This not about junkyard chic; our entry in to the world of bricolage is about making beautiful things from the world that surrounds us, embracing scarcity as the font of invention.



The project will be in three parts, the first 24 hours will be an intense design laboratory to survey the assembled material and propose a structure that will transform and transcend the original materials into a new place.


This is not a competition but we will, collectively, select a proposal to build or combine several ideas into a kind of architectural skvader or even select only a fragment to develop into the complete structure – opportunism and flexibility are central to the creative bricoleur.


The second part and the most demanding will be the building. You

will have just under two weeks to complete the task. Your ninety-six hands are the greatest asset but to organise forty-eight people to work effectively is also the greatest challenge. Anticipating the sequence

and physicality of work will be as important as the aesthetics of

your design.



The third part will be the celebration: to host events and talks and any other architectural experience you can conceive for the neglected but peaceful corner of ETH that the structure will inhabit.


Finally, it is our intention to repeat this project at the start of every semester using the same material again and again. Your structure will be the first of a series of transformations of the same material. We ask you not only to consider the origins of things and their immediate potential but also their futures beyond.



We must give special thanks for great support to the Block Research Group, especially to Marcel Aubert and Prof Dr Philippe Block.