ETH Zurich – Institute for Urban Design
HIL H44.1 – Stefano-Franscini-Platz 5 – 8093 Zurich





A new road, only for trucks, is cut into the landscape. Aeroplanes, cars, lorries and trains perform an endless, roaring ballet of movement that slows only for the regular traffic jam. Fields are razed to become vast logistics parks. Strangely silent office clusters line up along endless canals, interrupted by solitary trees and old farmhouses. The Airport Backyard is an entirely man-made landscape, inhabited by a particular breed of pioneers, who rework it constantly. They live the optimism of construction, the melancholy of vacancy, the spirit of acceleration. The city of the future emerges here, unnoticed – and eventually unstoppable.


Airports and the City of the 21st Century
Urban development is strongly determined by traffic infrastructure. Presently, air travel is the most rapidly growing transport sector. The urbanization around airports will thus be formative for the city of the 21st century. This confronts planning with new challenges. Cities develop around the new traffic nodes, with hithero unknown effects like settlement in areas with heavy noise, new centralities, and massive changes in the overall transport system.


Amsterdam’s Airport Backyard
Schiphol, Europe‘s fourth largest airplane hub, is positioned southwest of the city of Amsterdam. In many ways, Schiphol and its surroundings are exemplary for airports and their impact on the city. Though large parts of the “Airport Backyard” around the airport transport the image of a mere collection of infrastructures and office parks, it is in fact a highly complex, dynamic and urban environment where many people live and work. During the semester we will intensively engage with this area.

Urban Design Projects, Strategies & Masterplans
In the Studio, we will work out concrete Urban Design Projects, Strategies and Masterplans for the Airport Backyard on several scales, from region over quarter down to infrastructural, landscape and building types. We will work with a methodology that responds to the highly complex issues encountered here, transgressing conventional architectonic and urbanistic tools. We will practise contemporary urban design as a highly collaborative, multilayered form of “simultaneous chess”.

The design studio is part of the international research project „Better Airport Regions“ and builds on the results of the Design Studio in HS 2012. The studio will be conducted in close coordination with TU Delft and TU Munich, relevant actors from the airport region as well as with the Professorship for Information Architecture of ETHZ. Exploring several methods like Space Syntax, studio results will regularly be fed into scientific feedback loops.


Workshop in Amsterdam
An on-site workshop between Sept. 28th and Oct. 2nd is integral part of the studio and costs CHF 450.- (+/- 10%). We will work and sleep on a houseboat, the MS Waterland, and explore the area by bicycle and through the lenses of our cameras. The professional photographer Marc Latzel ( will join and instruct us in the field. We will also conduct interviews and workshops with actors from the region.


Organizational issues

• Max. 15 participants

• Group work, Studio in ONA Building

• Credit Points: 13+3 (P)

• Introduction: Tuesday, September 17th 2013, Room G34, ONA Building, 10 am

• Assistants: Benedikt Boucsein and Christian Salewski (Vertr. Prof. Christiaanse HS 13)



Benedikt Boucsein | boucsein @