ETH-EPFL Summer School: Transects Through Alpine Water Landscapes


Event details

Date 16.08.2021 21.08.2021
Speaker Prof. Dr. Paola Vigano, EPFL Laboratory of Urbanism (LAB-U) Institute of Architecture (IA), Studio Paola Viganò Prof. Dr. Tom Avermaete, ETH Zurich, Chair of the History and Theory of Urban Design, Institute of Landscape and Urban Studies (LUS) &, Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta) Prof. em. Dr. Rolf Weingartner, Professor Emeritus, Hydrology, University of Bern Dr. Karina Liechti, Senior Research Scientist, Sustainability Governance Impact Area, University of Bern
Category Miscellaneous
Alps, Water, and Infrastructure
Water is a finite resource that has increasingly become a major geopolitical issue. In the European context, the Alps hold a strategic position as the ‘water tower of Europe’. Industrialization and urbanization apply significant pressure onto the water ecosystems of alpine valleys. Modifications to the flow of rivers can significantly impact downstream regions, across very extensive areas. Thus, concerted landscape management and urban planning is essential, especially as natural and man-made water systems are affected by climate change.

The Valley Transect
The conceptual starting point for this summer school is Patrick Geddes’ Valley section from hills to the sea (1923), a transect that follows changes in resource availability and use across a continuous landscape. The transect is a way of recording occurrences and relations along a set path, revealing larger territorial logics. We propose to re-engage with the spatial aspects of water infrastructure by walking such a transect along the Massa river, from the Aletsch glacier to the Rhone valley floor. This case study presents archetypal water management issues and opportunities.

Fieldwork expeditions from glacier to valley floor
The program explores the shaping of the Massa River by human and non-human forces, with a specific focus for each day-trip: water & climate change (the Glacier); water & agriculture (the Bisse); water & energy (the Dam); water & drainage systems (the Urban Valley). The practice of critical walking forms the basis of expeditions into the field. On-site, students will employ field research methods and evaluate the performance of analytical tools along the transect. Field research will be supplemented by expert input, keynote speakers, methodological workshops, group discussion, and a final critique.

Through field expeditions, keynote lectures, discussions, workshops, and exchanges with experts, participants will engage with a ‘transect’ across a continuous water landscape, from the Aletsch glacier to the Rhone valley floor. Fieldwork will be employed to document key infrastructure, such as irrigation channels, dams, and drainage systems. It will highlight specific urbanization processes and reveal larger territorial logics. The objective is to develop a spatial, empirical, and material understanding of alpine water landscapes.

*Application deadline extended to July 1, 2021


Practical information

  • Expert
  • Registration required


  • Sylvie Tram Nguyen, Doctoral student, LAB-U, EPFL Rune Frandsen, Doctoral student, LUS, ETH Zurich
    Nicole de Lalouvière, Doctoral fellow, LUS, ETH Zurich
    Sarem Sunderland, Doctoral student, LUS, ETH Zurich



landscape transect water ecosystems summer school workshop

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