Hamish Fulton, Southern England, 1977


Urbanization and open space
From 2009, for the first time in history, more than half the world’s population are living in cities. This involves global urbanization processes from which Switzerland will not be spared. The boundaries between city and land are barely recognizable any more. Switzerland has become a city.
For all the differences between megacities and the Swiss agglomeration there is one common denominator: open space. A central topic for research at the Chair is therefore open space, especially with a view to its design, acquisition and use. Questions concerning quality and sustainability are paramount. Many open spaces are not purposefully designed. They are leftover spaces or passageways through which, however, a great number of people pass every day. Well-designed open spaces, like medieval city centre areas, squares or parks, represent the exception. A particular focus of our research is therefore on those areas ‘neglected’ by planners: the city streets as much as the indefinable leftover in-between spaces of the agglomeration or the Alps.

Transdisciplinarity and transculturality
This approach has led to the first research project ‘Taking to the streets’, which deals with the street as open space or lebensraum (space for living). The project clarifies a core theme of the research: the transcultural approach. The study locations for the project were selected from cities in Western Europe and East Asia. By making comparisons between the two cultural regions we aim to provide insights into the diversity of open space, as well as to raise awareness of cross-cultural and globally oriented activities.
In addition, the research approach is oriented in a transdisciplinary manner. To understand open space in all its complexity, be it purely urban open space or the indefinable no-man’s-land of alpine tourist resorts, it is necessary to work accross various fields and disciplines. Thus our research work is carried out in collaboration with sociologists, anthropologists, ethnographers, architects, landscape architects and city planners. 

Fieldwork and methods
Transdisciplinary work demands new working methods, especially in the area of fieldwork, which forms the basis of research projects at the Chair of Günther Vogt. However, for investigations into open space it is not possible simply to adopt research methods employed by other disciplines. Such methods must be modified and/or newly conceived to be suitable for urban and spatial research. Visual methods seem to be especially appropriate for the areas of architecture, open space planning and urban planning. This is why we place particular emphasis on image-based research, a qualitative research method that is still in its infancy as a scientific method.

Parallel to fieldwork there is in-depth theoretical work. A theory of open space is developed in collaboration with cooperation partners from various disciplines. Current conceptualities and description methods no longer depict actual events adequately. Discourse is bogged down in traditional dichotomies such as private/public or urban/rural. People from all sides are deploring the lack of a set of conceptual tools and a theoretical framework, yet solutions – which would be much appreciated by people across several disciplines – have yet to be found. Therefore, theoretical work constitutes – in addition to transdisciplinarity and transculturality, the emphasis on fieldwork, and the development of new visual methods – a third focal point for research work at the Chair of Günther Vogt.

NFP 65
Public space in the Alps
Diskurs der Werkzeuge
Lexikon der Landschaftsarchitektur
The landscape of abandonment
Taking to the streets