Experimenting Proximity – The Urban Landscape Observatory

The Urban Landscape Observatory is a cooperation between the Chair of Landscape Architecture Christophe Girot of the ETH Zurich and the Construction and Conservation Laboratory of the EPF Lausanne. It proposes a field of research that focuses essentially on the existing qualities of contemporary public open space at local level.


Experimenting Proximity was a two-year pilot project (2009-2011), defining a new approach to the critical analysis of the city landscape both in scale and form based on applied heuristic observation using various modes of notation and recording.

“Experimenting Proximity” has focused essentially on the existing qualities of contemporary public open spaces at local level. The notion of proximity refers to a particular scale of human activity and sensory experience. The tools of analysis that have been developed attempt to cover not only established rational parameters, but also existential, relational, emotional and atmospheric ones.

The goal of the project was to define the interface between different methods of Video and Mapping, delivering tangible results for both disciplines. We believe there is an urgent need for debate on a new visual culture in the fields of urban and landscape analysis. Their particular scale and mode of observation can become the cornerstone of an improved correlation between built form, landscape and public space.

The transfer between research and education is a running a concern of the Urban Landscape Observatory. Students of the ETH in Zurich and of the EPF in Lausanne were invited to reflect critically on the notion of proximity in their reading of the urban landscape, adopting the new modes of investigation and representation.

The project was funded by the Swiss Cooperation Programme in Architecture.


The results of the project have been published in spring 2014 in form of a book with theoretical texts and a web tool showing videos and mappings worked out by the students involved in the project.


Professor Christophe Girot, Chair of Landscape Architecture, ETH Zurich.
Dr. Elena Cogato Lanza, Construction and Conservation Laboratory / Laboratory of Urbanism, ENAC Faculty, EPF Lausanne.

Dr. Fred Truniger and Nadine Schütz, Chair of Landscape Architecture Christophe Girot, ETH Zurich.
Dr. Antonio di Campli, Construction and Conservation Laboratory, ENAC Faculty, EPF Lausanne.

Elena Cogato Lanza, Antonio di Campli, Christophe Girot, Susanne Hofer,
Tim Leyendekker, Frédéric Rossano, Fred Truniger, Nadine Schütz.

Contact: Nadine Schütz