Subject: Studio Altstetten
Date: 02 February 2022

Dear Student,

We hope this letter finds you well.

Last year we organised a shared diploma topic on Triemlifussweg, which is a strangely beautiful place. At heart it is nothing more than a small path. It feels intimate and tranquil, and at the same time has the metropolitan qualities of a city park. The place is part of the ever present transformative dynamics of densification in Zurich. Students approached the topic from a variety of angles and created an intriguing collection of ideas and impulses. Encouraged by the work we decided to follow
that path and to further engage with the topic of ongoing and future densification of Zurich.

Densification often feels like a threat: buildings get demolished and residents displaced – for the sake of more square metres, but not always more inhabitants. In the upcoming semester we would like to continue working on the question how densification in Zürich could instead be turned into an asset to tackle and renegotiate pressing socio-environmental conditions and needs.

To continue this investigation we choose to work on Altstetten. Altstetten is one of the largest districts of Zurich, and the most populous. It lies between the foothills of Uetli- and Käferberg and is strongly defined by different infrastructures: The Highway A1, the railways and the Limmat are primary structuring elements of the district. And the new Limmattalbahn connects the area with the larger region. During the last decade Altstetten has already undergone an immense transformation
and densification. Due to its strategic location in the new “Richtplan” – a guiding plan on city scale for any future development – Altstetten is still one of the areas with high potentials for further inner densification. The resulting pressure and dynamism is omnipresent and many transformation projects are ongoing or projected. These projects, that currently and in near future shape Altstetten, are the ones we will start from.

Together with you we want to develop a context that inspires others to analyse and rethink their approach. How can additional values be integrated in these developments? How does or can densification
contribute to a neighbourhood in transformation? What kind of design instruments and approaches can help to maximise this positive effect? Inspired by Keller Easterling’s “Medium Design” we will try to understand the mechanisms that define densification. How are current frameworks inviting to contribute to an existing landscape? Does design have the potential to become such an invitation? How can infrastructure become a new framework and pre-condition to react to?

The physical environment to discuss these questions will be at the core of our studio. Together we will transform our lab into a room that is inviting and inspiring and helps us and others to transgress current ways of thinking. We imagine this room as an immersive spatial setup that encourages to think beyond the plot, to think in relations, to think in long(er) time spans, and to reconnect with the actual lived and embodied existence. We call it the “Room of Entanglements”.

Hoping to meet you soon!

On behalf of NEWROPE,

Lukas Fink, Seppe De Blust, Marica Castigliano, Chloé Nachtergael