Welcome to ETH World
English Deutsch

Prof. Marc Angélil, Department of Architecture

ETH World 2000-2005

The ETH World program came to an end in 2005. This website is no longer updated and contains archival information about the activities.


Marc M. Angélil has been full Professor of Architecture and Design at the ETH Zurich since 1997 and is responsible for first-year design classes in the Department of Architecture.

His research activities deal with the contemporary developments in urban design. Using various case studies from Europe, Asia and the USA, metropolitan areas are investigated in view of their physical structures. Major emphasis is placed on working out strategies to support sustainable urban development processes, with attention given to the dynamic forces involved in the formation and transformation of a city.

In addition to his academic activities, Marc M. Angélil is a practicing architect. With his partners, Sarah Graham, Reto Pfenninger and Manuel Scholl, he has architectural offices in Los Angeles and Zurich.

What goals do you pursue with your project? What have you already achieved?
The goal of the project - entitled arc-line - was to develop an introductory architectural design course as a web-based communication and production network within the context of the ETH-World. Two primary objectives guided the project:

The first objective pertained to the physical infrastructure and the integration of digital technology at a relatively large scale. The project involved approximately 240 students per year and a group of faculty members of the Department of Architecture working collaboratively in the architectural design laboratory. This made it possible to test infrastructural needs in terms of the hardware and software required to guarantee operational functionality.

The second objective concerned the creation of a virtual infrastructure conceived as a platform for enhancing communication and design production. This digital framework allowed a consolidation of the work within the design studio, locating individual projects within a collective matrix. Software programs were written with sets of protocols designed to view the evolution of the submitted work during the course of the year. The platform offered connections to databases containing information relevant to course work such as outlines, daily exercises, bibliographies, and lecture transcripts. The virtual infrastructure of arc-line is now in place and is being currently considered for implementation within the entire Department of Architecture.

What are you and your team particularly proud of?
One of the primary ideas of arc-line was that students while learning about architecture, would be involved in actively designing not only physical spaces but most importantly the digital domains in which they operate. As students progressed, these spaces changed. The arc-line platform evolved as a dynamic system in a state of continuous transformation. Students contributed to the growth and evolution of that space.

In order to offer a general framework for such an undertaking, a script was outlined identifying the successive steps needed in the formation of that space. The steps led from the design of a small architectural artifact to the design of a larger urban conglomerate. Students and faculty were able to navigate through that space and assess the products of their design processes.

As space - as a phenomenon - is a key concern of architecture, the project addressed the mutual dependence of two types of environments: on the one hand, the physical space in which we normally live; on the other hand, the digital space in which we nowadays increasingly work. The project made a significant contribution - within the context of a school of architecture - to the interaction of physical and virtual spaces.

What changes will your project cause? Will it have only positive consequences for the ETH or are there also negative effects?
The project addressed potential implications of digital technology for architectural design.

Based on the assumption that the means deployed in the process of design have a determining effect on the results produced, the project explored the impact of the computer as a design tool on architecture. The project offered a new understandings of how architecture as a discipline could be affected by the introduction of new means of production. The change in infrastructure has altered the manner in which architecture is perceived, conceptualized, and produced. Primary aspects include the acceleration of process, the possibilities of working at a higher level of complexity, as well as the intensification of the communication environment. Based on analyses of the work within the studio, signs are visible of the effects of digital tools on architectural thinking and making. This is, however, just the beginning of a process necessitating long-term commitment by the faculty of architecture - a long-term commitment not necessarily given, as a resistance vis-à-vis information technology is repeatedly encountered within the faculty.

Rather than replacing current modes of teaching, the objective of arc-line was to enhance traditional methods with the possibilities offered by information technology. Accordingly, the project aimed at a superimposition of different media, combining established, time-honored means with new computer-based techniques. In order to emphasize this point, all assignments or exercises were to be done by the students both manually and digitally. One of the observations, however, is that students were primarily attracted to or seduced by the possibilities of digital technology, thus neglecting traditional means of production. Such a one-sidedness could be detrimental to the field of architecture.

An additional problem encountered pertains to a potential segregation between those who can and cannot afford the - from a student's point of view - rather extensive expenses associated with information technology. Students at the Department of Architecture are now asked to significantly invest in computers and peripheral equipment. This development requires careful consideration.

A further negative point pertains to the aspect of maintenance of the infrastructure, requiring continuous attention. This task has been more consuming than initially anticipated both in terms of human and financial resources.

What does ETH World mean for you?
ETH World is foremost an infrastructure having the ability to enhance communication within the institution as well as vis-à-vis external partners. In that, it facilitates and improves work within the domains of teaching and research.

ETH World has furthermore a social and symbolic function fostering long-term identification with the academic institution. The users - students, faculty, and staff - form a collective which the ETH World can coalesce.

Would you have carried out your project, if ETH World had not existed?
Probably yes. However, the objectives of the project could not have been achieved without ETH World funding and the great enthusiasm of all parties involved.


Wichtiger Hinweis:
Diese Website wird in älteren Versionen von Netscape ohne graphische Elemente dargestellt. Die Funktionalität der Website ist aber trotzdem gewährleistet. Wenn Sie diese Website regelmässig benutzen, empfehlen wir Ihnen, auf Ihrem Computer einen aktuellen Browser zu installieren. Weitere Informationen finden Sie auf
folgender Seite.

Important Note:
The content in this site is accessible to any browser or Internet device, however, some graphics will display correctly only in the newer versions of Netscape. To get the most out of our site we suggest you upgrade to a newer browser.
More information

© 2012 ETH Zurich | Imprint | Disclaimer | 1 July 2005