Research Project
Ersatzneubau: A Global Story

Research Project
Dr. Susanne Schindler, Dr. André Bideau, Marie-Anne Lerjen and students of MAS GTA

Semester final critique, community room ABZ, Kanzleistrasse, Zurich, 20 May 2022; Photo: Carolina Gomes

The demolition and redevelopment of housing, as established in the city of Zurich over the past decades as Ersatzneubau, is nothing new. But which arguments have been used to legitimate this practice at different times and in different places? How do aesthetic, political and economic interests become intertwined in urban renewal projects?

In the spring semester 2022, MAS GTA students sought answers to these questions. In pairs, they selected case studies in Europe, North America and Asia to trace local specificities: Beijing, Corbeil-Essonnes, Glasgow, Hamburg, Minneapolis, Porto, Turin, Vancouver and Zurich. Our working thesis was that a historical and global perspective would reveal patterns of narratives and actions and contribute to a more nuanced understanding of Ersatzneubau.

Indeed: the current wave of renewal, just like its precursors, is legitimated with rational arguments. If, in the early twentieth century, it was promises of “hygiene,” “good citizenship” or “affordability” that legitimated tabula rasa planning, today keywords including “sustainability;” “quality” or “urbanity” enable large-scale clearance. But what may seem self-evident and reasonable in one moment, is often barely comprehensible a few decades later.

Lecturers Research Semester MAS GTA
Susanne Schindler, André Bideau, Marie-Anne Lerjen

Students Research Semester MAS GTA
Thomas Birchmeier, Fabian Diem, Carolina Gomes, Ana Sofia Gonçalves, Noemi Grodtke, Lisa Henicz, Denise Janes, Laura Lampe, Maria-Theresa Lampe, Franziska Matt, Justina Mangels, Dominik Müller, Fabian Ruppanner, Marta Shtipkova, Ania Tschenett, Benedict Wahlbrink, Yeshi Wang

The results of the research semester were presented in the spring of 2023 in the exhibition “Densification or Displacement?” conceived together with the MAS in Housing (ETH) at ZAZ BELLERIVE Zentrum für Architektur Zürich.

Download the pdf of the research results here (in German only).