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


 Urban Made Zurich, Locally Embedded Economies as Resources for Valorizing Urban Space


The reciprocal relationship between urban space and locally embedded economies is increasingly gaining importance in the scientific discourse. While cities are considered as a resource for the diversity of skills, knowledge, and experience, and provide space for the production and sale of goods, locally embedded economies contribute to a culture of diversity and the intensification of everyday urban life.

The locally embedded economy encompasses companies, networks, and working forms that are involved in the economic and social structures of urban neighborhoods through manifold interdependencies. The existence and development of the urban economy depends on these enterprises. They are not only anchored passively in their urban context, but actively contribute to its development. In conjunction with their social capital, local sub-economies create urban nutrient media, which are followed by various social, cultural and economic processes. The mutual relationship of locally acting economies with space is considered in the current scientific discourse mainly from a socio-economic perspective. As a result, their spatial effects are understood as the spontaneous results of their urban milieus rather than their potential to control urban development processes.

This research project is, therefore, based on the hypothesis that locally embedded economies could play a crucial role in the implementation of urban planning strategies whose explicit goal is to increase the innovation potential of urban neighborhoods through heterogeneity, diversity and interaction. The aim of the project is to deliberately use the economic benefits of locally embedded economies and their potential to contribute to urban development processes and to valorize public space. In order to achieve this, the precise mechanisms of the interrelation between public urban space and local small and medium-sized enterprises in Zurich are examined first. Based on this, possible strategies for the instrumentalization of their potentials towards pre-defined normative urban development goals are examined. In order to test the impact and controllability of the local economy, on the one hand areas with inherent potentials for the attraction of medium, small and micro enterprises are selected and on the other hand areas with a high development requirement. These are to be found on the fringes of the city of Zurich.

The aim of the projects is to also test the theses of the research under real conditions with means of a pilot project. This is done in collaboration with experts in sociology and economics, small-scale entrepreneurs, real estate investors, and the city administration of Zurich. Thus, the project not only introduces a spatial approach to an already existing socio-economic discourse, but also extends the empirical and exploratory work with a directly practical dimension.


Project lead: Daniel Kiss

Project team 2012-2018:
Molina Marine Cobo, Daniel Kiss, Dimitri, Kron, Anne Mikoleit, Gyler Mydyti, Tim Rieniets, Cecilie Sachs Olsen, Tessina Schenk, Myriam Uzor, Jan Westerheide


Integrated courses:

- Entwurfsstudio Urban Made Zürich (HS14)

- Kleinökonomien als Treiber der Quartiersentwicklung (Wahlfach FS14)


- Produktion in der Stadt (Wahlfach HS13)