Science Fiction in Zurich

In a newly constructed building at Hönggerberg, ETH Zurich is exploring the boundaries of digital fabrication and gives a glimpse at the architecture of tomorrow.

Last week ETH Zurich opened its newest addition, the Arch_Tech_Lab on the campus Hönggerberg. It is a unique building collaboratively developed by six chairs of professors that will serve the institute as an experimental ground for research and building techniques. Built upon a garage, it offers a large open space for close interdisciplinary collaborations, expressing transparency and “the research qualities we are looking for at the ETH” as Sacha Menz describes it, head of the Institute for Technology in Architecture.

The lab’s most outstanding design feature is undoubtedly its roof: a slightly curved plain made of countless wooden bars arranged in superhuman precision. “The structure was indeed programmed, not drawn — which is a novelty” as Matthias Kohler puts it, professor for digital fabrication, “no manmade roof could reach the same degree of perfection.” A robot thus not only designed the roof’s shape but also calculated the ideal positions and amounts of fixations.

Another revolutionary aspect of the building lies in its emission technology: it contains a large number of air boxes, heating and cooling the lab depending on demand, while used air exits through small, planned leaks in the hull.

The building’s ground floor is home to a robotics lab. The first of its kind, it focuses on robotics-based fabrication in architecture. Four independent mechanical arms extend from its ceiling, allowing for a fully automated arrangement of different construction materials into building prototypes.

Photograph by Andrea Diglas

Photograph by Andrea Diglas


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