Landscape and/in the City: The Case of Switzerland

This seminar examines the relationship of landscape and city in Switzerland as a framework for the exhibition and symposium bConstructing the Swiss Landscapeb that will take place at the GSD in December 2006. Students will research specific case studies and evaluate them through the lens of a broader theoretical context. In turn, the course will assess recent scenarios for urbanization in an age of globalization against the specific case of Switzerland. Questions include landscape urbanism, urban brownfields, the value of \”nature\” as a symbolic construct, and the cultural landscape. To the outsider, Switzerland projects contrasting images of Alpine farmland and nebulous urban/suburban conurbations, of cantonal independence and global economy. Most of the population resides in the continuous development of agglo, a highly constructed periurban environment that also incorporates farmland and forest. These oppositions do not reflect the stereotypical dialectic town-countryside but rather a collage of urban-suburban-rural fragments. Within the country itself, opinions alternate between favoring the urbanized over the declining rural landscape, and opposite aims to culturally and economically reinforce the Alpine regions. In the recent years, designers and theoreticians have examined strategies for planning Switzerland, a country notoriously resistant to planning. These strategies include the study Switzerland: An Urban Portrait (2006) by Roger Diener, Jacques Herzog, Marcel Meili, Pierre de Meuron, and Christian Schmid at one end of the spectrum, and the localized interventions of architect Gion Caminada on the Grisons valley of Vrin at the other. In a sense, Switzerland presents a concentrate of the questions facing designers and planners across Europe and America. The discourse on the role and value of \”nature,\” both economically and culturally, has grown from a specialized debate to a general concern. The constructed landscape-from ski resorts to bioswimming pools, not to mention the famous Swiss military installations-vies with the image of a pre-industrialized Alpine eden maintained at great expense. Conversely, the designed landscape is widely accepted as part of the everyday environment.