Architectural research at the D-ARCH is genuinely interdisciplinary. Depending on the perspective and the question posed, methods from the social sciences, the humanities, engineering, and the material and spatial sciences—specific or complementary—are brought into play. This wide-ranging expertise resides above all in the institutes of the D-ARCH: The Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta), the Institute of Technology in Architecture (ITA), the Institute of Historic Building Research and Conservation (IDB) and the Network City and Landscape (NSL) are closely linked with the design studios through the interdisciplinary definition of task. Their findings flow into the architectural teaching. This knowledge is complemented by our collaboration with other divisions of ETH Zurich, such as the humanities, social and political sciences, as well as the material, environmental and engineering sciences.
History and Theory of Architecture (gta)
Architecture-specific research in the humanities, particularly in history and theory, is conducted at the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta). From an examination of the history of architecture and the fundamentals of sustainable thinking in the past, we gain insights about future architectural production. Research is made into the knowledge resources of architecture, the forms and techniques of construction, the functions and their relation to society and politics, and the development of design and of architectural thinking, from their beginnings to the present day.
The already extremely successful and internationally acclaimed research activity in the field of the history and theory of architecture, which is reflected both in major publications as well as in ambitious exhibitions, will continue to be strengthened and sharpened. The imperative is to ensure the substantive and methodological continuity and expertise through excellent academics and scientists. With the introduction of a doctoral programme in the History and Theory of Architecture in the autumn semester of 2012, the targeted and long-term promotion of young talent will be institutionalised. At the postdoctoral level, the establishment of an Institute of Advanced Studies for the History and Theory of Architecture is also planned.
Building Research and Conservation (IDB)
Issues pertaining to alteration, value retention and knowledge-driven management of the existing building stock are increasingly becoming central questions for the future of university research and teaching in construction (in practice today, already more than 70% of the investments are made in existing buildings). As a result, building research and conservation moves from a historically peripheral position within the university into the focus of future research. The Institute of Historic Building Research and Conservation (IDB) is concerned with historic building research as well as the theoretical foundations and practice of building conservation. The long-term validity of existing and future building stock—also from the more recent past—is investigated, especially in terms of sustainable resource cycles with regard to material science and technology.
The stability of future development in construction is substantially determined—in terms of the theoretical and physical control of the dynamics as well as the construction and maintenance processes—by that portion of the stocks which is solidly built and of high quality, as well as by the following aspects:
- The examination of the issue of life cycle perspectives of entire building stocks and retention of their value for the future (questions of sustainability)
- The transmission of knowledge and practices for conserving protected objects, meaning the reconstruction of historical pools of knowledge about building conservation and about the regulation of future processes
- The approach to the theory and praxis of historical building construction through the methods of building research as a prerequisite for developing a complex understanding of existing configurations and buildings.
Technology in Architecture (ITA)
The call for ecological and sustainable construction under strict economic conditions demands new ways of designing and building. The Institute of Technology in Architecture (ITA) conducts research on technological and engineering aspects of construction (building construction, building physics, load-bearing structure, building systems, building process), but also in the field of computer-aided techniques for architecture (CAAD and digital fabrication). In the process, products, technologies and methods for construction are developed that are sustainable with regard to their use of energy and materials.
The research focuses, among other things, on the following objectives:
- Realisation of zero-emission buildings with low operating costs achieved through optimised building systems developed with the aid of building simulations made during the design phase
- Implementation of the “individualised mass-produced article” through the use of digitised processes as a link between design and execution
- Expansion of the constructive spectrum by linking material and production logic in the interests of digitally-controlled manufacturing
- Convergence of design and construction in the structural design
- Overcoming the additive method of planning, procurement and construction in the classic building process.
With the establishment of a doctoral programme in Technology in Architecture in the autumn semester of 2012, the quality of the training of young scientists in the field of technology will also be enhanced, the best researchers from around the world and across disciplines will be attracted and, in this way, the research profile of the Department of Architecture will be strengthened.
Spatial Sciences: City and Landscape (NSL)
With few exceptions, our built environment has been altered and reshaped for centuries by human creative activity. The planning disciplines at work in urban, suburban and rural areas—urban design, urban planning, regional planning and landscape architecture—must confront this anthropogenic inheritance on a daily basis by relying on shared notions. The Network City and Landscape (NSL), an alliance of several institutes of the Department of Architecture and the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, offers the appropriate research platform at the organisational level. With a view of the whole, the institutes work in interdisciplinary collaboration on complexes of problems relating to specific sites as well as on broader questions. Of concern are aspects of perception, function and purpose, as well as of design and the stewardship of development On one hand this pertains to the objective collection of environmentally relevant data, their conjunction and translation into strategies for action and, on the other hand, to the subjective implementation of these strategies with respect to cultural and aesthetic qualities in a clearly defined physical form.
The Department of Architecture conducts spatial science research in a global context. The focus of interest is centred on developing large-scale sustainable strategies, for housing development, urban design and the man-made landscape, for instance, but also with respect to sociological, economic-geographic and regional aspects. Taking into account the resources applicable for urban development and transformation processes, comprehensible and comparable information for coping with current challenges in regional development and urban design is compiled. Sustainability is understood as a broad concept that goes far beyond technical-ecological indicators and centres on the long-term developmental viability of cities as a resource.