London's Natural History

22–28 October 2017

1/16 Rowley Way, Neave Brown, 1972-8 


London has never accepted master planning and does not accept concepts of any kind. It is disordered, mercantile, opportunistic, at times vulgar but always with an eye for a refined detail. Whether in architecture or in fashion or even in landscapes, unruliness is the natural setting for supremely elegant sequences grafted into the clumsy and the unkempt so easily that a natural order must be hiding in plain sight. London’s tolerance and accommodating character, just like its citizens, is bound together by a perpetual natural history; parks, gardens and river that weave throughout London’s natural history joining humans and architecture to trees, grasses, flowers, birds, insects, clay and gravel, the past to the present, growth to decay, the visible to the unseen.


Walking from the inland west to the maritime east, we shall go in search of London, which despite its best efforts to avoid the singular in favour of the plural, has one body and one heart that can be found in every brick and every blade of grass however carefully or careless arranged.



London, 22-28 October 2017
max. 750CHF min. 12; max 21 students




Everything you always wanted to know about plants*

* but were afraid to ask

20–34 March 2017

Giuseppe Penone, working on Cedro di Versailles, 2000 


The ruin has re-emerged with remarkable force recently. Perhaps in response to a fragile ecology or a fragile economy where growth needed to be matched by decay. In either case it underlines the urgency of reintegrating architecture into the environment where nature and architecture can grow as one human culture. And with the emergence of landscape as central to architectural culture, the garden becomes the world, but quickly we realise how little we know of botanical space.

Do you know a hardy perennial from an evergreen? Have you ever added sketchy greenery to an architectural drawing knowing full well how little it actually means? Despite our ever-expanding field of contemporary architectural knowledge, we know so much less about basic botany than pre-modern architects. Exactly at a time when we should know more. To conclude our series of seminar weeks on landscape, we shall go back to basics; to learn about plants. In a series of lectures, visits and hands-on practical exercises we shall plant the seeds of horticultural knowledge. What is a plant? How are plants categorised and how do they live in the wild and survive in our constructed landscapes? Architectural culture grows from cultivating knowledge of the whole environment.

Zurich, 20-24 March 2017
max. 250CHF min. 12; max 21 students

Ha-ha, 23–30 October 2016

1/6 Stanley Kubrick, Barry Lyndon, shot at Stourhead, 1975 


The ha-ha is a ditch stretching across the entire width of an estate, one to two metres deep, to keep the animals away from the house without disturbing the view. With a vertical retaining wall on the house side and a gentle grassy slope on the other, this ancient invention was re-used in the eighteenth century as the first frameless window of modern architecture and fundamental to the picturesque naturalism of the English garden that may be the most radical idea of modernity; to create an invisible barrier between nature and culture.

We shall visit the great English gardens that captured the artistic and philosophical imagination of the Enlightenment and sowed the seeds of our contemporary culture; Stourhead, Bath, the glass and iron botanical garden at Kew mirrored by pre-history at Stonehenge and the recent inheritance of Alison + Peter Smithson. The English landscape did not only create Arcadian gardens for the aristocracy, it framed modern perception. It is the ancestor of public space and has structured modern society from planning, science, art, law, economics and warfare. With friends and experts we shall unmask the most beautifully disguised duel between nature and culture.

23–30 October 2016

max. 800 CHF, includes transport and accommodation

min 16; max 21 students








Le jardin de Le Corbusier,  Marseilles, 12–19 March

1/2 Unite d’Habitation, Le Corbusier, 1952 


Marseilles is ugliness transformed into a beauty.
Marseilles has suffered, and through its suffering
something real shows through.
Marseilles is made by the sea.
Marseilles is made by the light.
Marseilles is made by the people.
Nothing should be refused in Marseilles.

     William Firebrace, Marseille Mix (2010)


France’s major Mediterranean port and its second largest city, Marseilles will be our home for the week, our point of departure. Staying at the Unité d’Habitation we will venture into the city and into the region beyond, following the path of Le Corbusier. We will look to understand how his architecture inhabits landscape, exploring the south of France as a garden: from his inspiration of the Abbey of Le Thoronet to his final seaside cabin, Le Cabanon. Guided by friends, architects and historians, our journey will take us deep into the city and far into the territory.


12–19 March 2016
Price Range C, includes transport and accommodation
min 16; max 16 students

Hidden Gardens: Italy, 19–24 Oktober 2015


1/14 Charles H. Traub from Dolce Via: Italy in the 1980s Damiani, 2013  



…the garden which discloses what the city ought to be.

Colin Rowe & Fred Koetter, Collage City


As architecture ages, gardens grow like cultivated rooms between building and landscape. Rome dissolves the distinction between architecture, gardens and the passage of time, where ancient monuments are overgrown and modernisation struggles under the weight of history. We will explore the city/garden as both a place of political conflict and a place of symbiotic balance; houses are designed as landscapes, plants ruin cities to create romantic idylls.

Rome’s seven hills have always dictated an integral appreciation of the lie of the land and that has placed garden and architecture on a single plane. Water changed landscape, agriculture and urban development in aqueducts, fountains and reservoirs of Rome, for the benefit of farmers, citizens, emperors and Gods. We will discover how an Empire grew with the power of water, how it irrigated the exuberance of the Renaissance and Baroque imagination and how it planted the roots of modernity.
















Hidden Garden, 16–20 March 2015



From our doorstep in Zurich we can travel the world in plants. Gardens, small and large will form the basis for visits, talks and drawings. Far from being the antithesis of constructed architecture, we will explore how the garden may be the only paradigm for a new conception of architecture and design based upon growth, evolution and care. Ancient histories, global geography, contemporary botany, material science mythologies blossom together within the walls.

Scholars and gardeners will lead us on visits through these self-contained universes, all in Zurich - some famous and visible to all, others well hidden beyond the outsiders view. We may never truly understand them but to be together within these elusive spaces will be the greatest discoveries of all.
16–20 March 2015, Price Range A, 15–25 students








Hidden Vienna, 20–25 October 2014



Vienna: capital or frontier? Within the immaculate geometry of the Ringstrasse, creative and destructive contests of eastern and western cultures have produced a most refined European city in streets, salons, coffee houses and ballrooms.We shall go in search of the city’s unconscious within and beyond its monuments and urban fabric. Of course we can never truly understand it but to travel together across these elusive spaces will be the greatest discovery of all.




We will meet on 20th October at 9am for coffee at the Cafe Sperl before the first walk. The week will be organized around five walks in and around the city led by architects, historians, artists and journalists each with a unique geography and expertise. The walks will pass through and be supplemented by visits to some of the many architectural masterpieces that define Vienna.


We will arrange accommodation, but travel to and from Vienna is up to you. If you book well in advance, an overnight train from Zurich costs as little as 29 Euros each way.


There will be an introduction meeting before we go and we will provide a detailed program and reader.


Price range: C: 500 - 750 CHF



Los Angeles, 15–26 March 2012
The Architecture of Four Ecologies 

1/7 Reyner Banham talks to Ed Ruscha in Reyner Banham Loves LA, BBC, 1972 


Los Angeles: the Architecture of Four Ecologies, written by the English historian and critic Reyner Banham in 1970, remains the greatest hymn to a city which in its unruly polymorphous evolution has evaded traditional architectural and urban analysis. In dividing the city into four ecological systems Banham found the fundamental conditions which enabled this great metropolis to emerge from the merging of nature with individual desire: 1 Surfurbia (beaches and sunsets); 2 Foothills (suburbs; mobility-focused architecture); 3 The Plains of Id (flatlands fulfilling the promise of European Modernism); 4 Autopia (freeway as central feature of a good life).



The ‘perpetual spring’ of the Southern Californian climate, the sun setting over the Pacific so reliably that it named the city’s most famous street, a topography with enough to satisfy an insatiable appetite for individuality and (hydro) geology fit for exotic cultivation makes a fertile landscape for the American Dream and the architectural imagination. We shall accompany Banham through the four ecologies to discover LA’s unique metabolism. Banham leads a path through the four ecologies with a unique portfolio of Modern architectural masterpieces. The list of buildings worth visiting is neither possible nor complete but includes works by:


 Richard Neutra, Frank Lloyd Wright, George Wyman, John Lautner, Charles and Ray Eames, Rudolph M. Schindler, Pierre Koenig, Frank Gehry and Louis Kahn



We will add to Banham’s discerning architectural selection the great works of Frank Gehry’s early and mid career in Santa Monica that were not yet built at the time of writing and on their own could define a fifth Ecology: Post-Vernacular Commercial Regionalism.



We will also meet leading artists and architects to hear how contemporary Los Angeles continues to provide a setting for creative practice. And finally for a breath of fresh air (if that were needed), we will make the journey along the Pacific coast to watch the sunset from Louis Kahn’s epic Salk Institute.



Travellers are invited to prepare by reading Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies and also enjoy a selection of LA’s multiple identities in films. In the weeks running up to the seminar week we will try to arrange a couple of film evenings to sample from the virtually bottomless well of Los Angeles in cinema.



For starters only, we would recommend:


Reyner Banham loves Los Angeles (1972) available on Youtube

The Big Lebowski (1998)

China Town (1974)

Blade Runner (1982)

In a Lonely Place (1950)

Los Angeles Plays Itself (1972 and 2003) available on Youtube

The Long Goodbye (1973)

The Cool School (2007)

Mildred Pierce (1945)

Sunset Boulevard (1950)


Sunset Bouldevard


14 -23 March 2014
Price Range F (1500-1700 CHF), Includes flight, transport, visits, entries, reader and accommodation for 21 students. Contact:


Please be aware that in case your passport is not issued by a country of the Visa Waiver Program you will need to apply for a visa in order to enter the US.

Please check details here:





Hidden Belgrade



“Belgrade is the ugliest city in the world in the most beautiful place in the world.”
      Le Corbusier, architect


“This grand city seems to have always been like this: torn and spilt, as if it never exists but is perpetually being created, built upon and recovered. On one side it waxes and grows, on the other it wanes and deteriorates. Ever in motion and rustle, never calm and never knowing tranquillity or quiet. The city upon two rivers, on the grand clearing, bound by the winds.”
      Ivo Andrić, writer (Nobel Prize winner)

Belgrade is a city with a turbulent past. This due in part to its unique strategic position at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, on the border between the East and the West. Here, where the boundary of Europe and Asia has shifted violently for centuries, we shall visit a place of borderlands and edges. On our journey we hope to begin to understand a place where a cycle of construction and destruction has given rise to city of a rich texture, a place where discontinuity has been its future.


In the last century Belgrade has witnessed and been subject to the powerful influences of the Monarchy, Communism, Nationalism and Capitalism, each epoch leaving its mark on the city. The city is now emerging as one of the most engaging capitals of Europe, mixing the  beautiful with the ugly, ruined with the new, the memorialised with the forgotten. In this context we will find a tumultuous history, discover hidden architectural masterpieces, and live in the places of everyday life.


Architects, historians, artists and friends will guide us across the divergent realities of the city on six personal walks that will open windows into what the city is made of.

21 -27 October 2013
Price Range C, 500-750CHF: includes at least flight, transport, guests, reader and accommodation for 21 students.





Constructing the World II, 18–22 March 2013

A Belvedere for Zollikon



Technique and technology come from the Greek word techne meaning ‘a general ability to make things intelligently1. The original meaning of art, from the Latin artem or ars, was much the same, namely skill. But with the development of the machine the two terms were pulled apart into opposing concepts which remain with us today. The author/artist abstracts notions of intelligence, creativity, sensitivity and expression while the artisan or craftsman refines techniques of making through continuity, practice and tradition. We will draw these concepts together into a common source for the architectural imagination.

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.

The programme 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.


The design studio is integrated with a construction based seminar week based in Zürich & Zollikon. We will carry out a series of workshops that are thematically related to our building project and will give insights into history of timber construction as well as hands-on advise on timber crafting.


Attendance is asked for and only open to students from our studio.


18-22 March 2013

Price Range A, includes transportation to Zollikon

40 Students


São Paulo Escondido15–26 March 2012

1/6 SESC Pompeia, Sao Paulo, 1977-1986. Architect: Lina Bo Bardi 


Brazil has a saying about itself, ‘country of the future, and it always will be’. This ironic statement about the paradox of immense potential and perceived failed progress finds its fullest expression in the country’s (and continent’s) economic powerhouse, São Paulo. Home of a modernist future that never fully arrived, the city of São Paulo will be the destination of our journey. 

A city where memories are older than buildings, São Paulo has under gone massive population growth over the last 40 years, which the economy and infrastructure has struggled to keep up with. Now in a state of economic revival the city has become a global cultural and financial focus. In this context we will find a rich history of radical modernist architecture, from the avant garde informal work of Lina Bo Bardi to the infrastructural geometric work of Villanova Artigas.

Architects, historians, artists and friends will guide us across the divergent realities of the mega city on five personal walks that will open windows into what the city is made of.

15–26 March 2012

Price Range F, 1500-1750CHF, includes flight, transport, guests, reader and accommodation

19 students


Please note that we fly at 19:00 on Thursday the 15th of March and land back in Zurich at 12:00 on Monday 26th of March.  



Hidden Glasgow, 24–30 October 2011



With the architecture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Alex Greek Thomson, brutalists Gillespie Kidd & Coia, tenement housing, Glasgow is one of the finest European cities. Once the gateway to America, the shipping industry on which the city was built has all disappeared but in its shadow has grown the most dynamic and integrated creative scene. Contemporary art, literature and music are deeply enmeshed in the American grid laid deep into the topography.


We shall go in search of Glasgow’s hidden heart. Architects, historians, artists and friends will lead us on five personal walks through the great granite blocks covering the banks of the Clyde.


24–30 October 2011

Price Range C, includes flight, transport and accommodation

10–22 students


Hidden Zürich, 21–25 March 2011


Wen Gott lieb hat, dem gibt er ein Haus in Zürich – The one that is liked by God, will be given a house in Zürich

     Carl Hauptmann, poet 1883


Below well manered appearances, Zürich has been the site of radical art movements, plots of political revolution and literary invention. There are tales of gold lying under the pavement on Bahnhofstrasse, tables shared by Lenin, Einstein and Joyce or pumping station the height of mountains. We shall go in search of Zürich’s hidden heart.Five guests will lead us through their own Zurich, who like Calvino’s Marco Polo, will reveal the multitude of invisible spaces that make, afterall, only one city.


21–25 March 2011

Price Range A

10–22 students


      Seminar week booklet

Hidden Zurich, Itinerary to seminar trip, April 2011, 210 × 148.5mm, 60 pages, 1 staple, risograph print by Simon Egli on Recyconomic, 80gsm

Hidden London, 24–30 October 2010


In spite of everything, London contains many more and more varied masterpieces than Rome or Paris … Nothing ever quite fits to the Continental influence; and the true Londoner will never quite fit in any pattern at all, even an English one … tolerant, shrewd, cheerfully vulgar and with a remarkable eye for quick profit.

Ian Nairn, Nairn’s London, 1966


Unlike many European cities London is a merchant city where public life is conducted in private spaces. There may be squares and grand streets but these are not the real story. Behind well-mannered eighteenth century facades and repetitive suburbs every form of human endeavour has found its place from the establishment to revolutionaries. We shall go in search of London’s hidden heart.

Scholars and friends will lead us on five walks through their own personal London. Of course we can never truly understand it but to travel together across these elusive spaces will be the greatest discovery of all.


Our five walks
Survey of London walk, with Andrew Saint.
Elephant and Castle Drift, with Laura Oldfield Ford
London & Failure, with Douglas Murphy
Outer London, with Peter Beard
Bloomsbury to The City, with Tom Emerson


24–30 October 2010

Price Range C, includes flight, transport and accommodation

10–22 students


       Seminar week booklet

Hidden London, Itinerary to seminar trip, october 2010, 210 × 148.5mm, 56 pages, 1 staple, risograph print by Simon Egli on Recyconomic, 80gsm