052-1131-23L  Inconvenience - We are the Ministry for the Future

SemesterAutumn Semester 2023
LecturersA. Fonteyne
Periodicityevery semester recurring course
Language of instructionEnglish
CommentPlease register (Link) only after the internal enrolment for the design classes (see Link).

Project grading at semester end is based on the list of enrolments on 1.11.2023 (valuation date) only. This is the ultimate deadline to unsubscribe or enroll for the studio.


052-1131-23 UArchitectural Design V-IX: Inconvenience - We are the Ministry for the Future (A.Fonteyne) Special students and auditors need a special permission from the lecturers.
Permission from lecturers required for all students.
No course on 24/25.10 (seminar week).
16 hrs
Tue09:45-17:30ONA G 23 »
Wed08:00-17:30ONA G 23 »
A. Fonteyne

Catalogue data

AbstractThis semester, we will research ETH’s built reality, by taking stock of the buildings and public spaces it develops as a federal institution. Holding 211 buildings in Zurich alone, accounting for five billion Swiss Francs, ETH’s real estate portfolio has a huge impact on the city. Which architectures, financial constructions, strategies, actors, and policies constitute ETH’s real estate?
Objective1 Formulate key research questions.
2 Understand and develop skills on reporting qualitative and quantitative research.
3 Gather in-depth knowledge on ETH real estate politics, and through this, gain a realistic understanding of the dynamics around development and maintenance of (large) real estate portfolios in order to critically situate key findings.
4 Visit different sites, interview relevant people and evaluate whether reality complies with strategic decisions.
5 Reflect and take a position on architecture as a representation of a federal institution.
6 Gain confidence in designing feasibility strategies with an ability to be conscious of surrounding critical discourse. Assess the value of different strategies from different perspectives and make conscious recommendations.
7 Develop skills on how to document, draw, build, represent and communicate findings to different audiences.
8 Challenge the ubiquitous practice of replacing existing buildings.
9 Define a personal position about the agencies of the architect within research, development, and brief-making.
10 Learn how to work together with others, leaving room to explore individual interests. Develop skills to debate and learn how to contribute to the quality of the work of peers.
ContentIn his sci-fi parable The Ministry for The Future from 2020, Kim Stanley Robinson brings the impact of climate change into the very near future. The book is set in Zurich, and posits ETH as an important agent for change. In the upcoming four semesters we will use this narrative as an invitation to ask this inconvenient question: are we actually working in the interest of future generations?

For this first semester, we start with ETH’s built reality and its real estate strategy, by taking stock of the buildings, campuses, public spaces and landscapes it develops and maintains as a federal institution. Holding 133 buildings in Zurich alone, accounting for five billion Swiss Francs, ETH’s real estate portfolio has a huge impact on the city, the region and even the country. Which architectures, financial constructions, strategies, actors and policies constitute ETH’s real estate?

To this end, with you, we will set up and run a Competence Center that scrutinises ETH’s real estate politics. Five different departments of the Competence Center each focus on a specific aspect and develop an in-depth understanding of it. From here, the Center will develop feasibility studies that propose and test out spatial strategies, priorities and briefs through design research.

By dressing up as a Competence Center, we take the perspective of the institution seriously. We try to understand and tackle the inconvenient questions and realities it is facing from the inside, by embodying it, through roleplay and empathy. What if we are the Ministry for the Future? What would we do?
Prerequisites / NoticeGroup work only.

Introduction: 19 September 23, 9h, Octavo, Oerlikon
Intermediate crits: 10/10/23, 21/11/23
Final crits: 19+20/12/23
Extra costs: Approx. CHF 100.-- per student (estimated costs, without possible seminar week costs)
Subject-specific CompetenciesConcepts and Theoriesassessed
Techniques and Technologiesfostered
Method-specific CompetenciesAnalytical Competenciesassessed
Project Managementassessed
Social CompetenciesCommunicationassessed
Cooperation and Teamworkassessed
Customer Orientationfostered
Leadership and Responsibilityassessed
Self-presentation and Social Influence assessed
Sensitivity to Diversityassessed
Personal CompetenciesAdaptability and Flexibilityassessed
Creative Thinkingassessed
Critical Thinkingassessed
Integrity and Work Ethicsassessed
Self-awareness and Self-reflection assessed
Self-direction and Self-management assessed

Performance assessment

Performance assessment information (valid until the course unit is held again)
Performance assessment as a semester course
ECTS credits14 credits
ExaminersA. Fonteyne
Typegraded semester performance
Language of examinationEnglish
RepetitionRepetition possible without re-enrolling for the course unit.
Additional information on mode of examinationUltimate deadline for changing enrolments for this course is 1.11.2023, 24:00 h.
After this date it is strictly forbidden to enrol for the course or to delete the enrolment!

Learning materials

Main linkInformation
Only public learning materials are listed.


No information on groups available.


General : Special students and auditors need a special permission from the lecturers
Permission from lecturers required for all students

Offered in

Architecture BachelorArchitectural Design (from 5. Semester on)WInformation