Elective Course HS2020 | Serendipity | Captive Waters

Elective Course HS2020 | Serendipity | Captive Waters
August 26, 2020 Dennis Häusler

We will approach the water infrastructure of Zurich with sound recorders and analogue medium format cameras. Spending time on site will give us the possibility to emerge into the system of water and observe it on different scales. Back on campus Students will work on an audiovisual composition, created in the AudioVisual-Lab and the PhotoLab.

We want to understand the spatial characteristics drawn by light and sound and create a new perception of these places. What spatial qualities can we find in this hidden underground landscapes? And how can we present these discoveries in an audiovisual work?

TOOLS: Analoge Photography / Sound recorders and contact microphones

TEACHING TEAM: Prof. Christophe Girot, Ludwig Berger, Dennis Häusler, Johannes Rebsamen, Matthias Vollmer

CONTACT:  Johannes Rebsamen

Sept 17 Introduction & Registration
Sept 24 Technical introduction
Sept 26-27 Workshop weekend
Oct 01 Introduction to the Audio-Visual Lab and to the PhotoLab
Oct 08 Individual Work (PhotoLab and Audio-Visual Lab)
Oct 15 Early Mid Crit (presentation of material)
Oct 22 – no course – (seminar week)
Oct 29 Individual Work (PhotoLab and Audio-Visual Lab)
Nov 05 Individual Work (PhotoLab and Audio-Visual Lab)
Nov 12 Late Mid Crit (presentation of material)
Nov 19 Individual Work (PhotoLab and Audio-Visual Lab)
Nov 26 Individual Work (PhotoLab and Audio-Visual Lab)
Dec 03 Final Crit


Have a look at our temporary exhibition of work in progress: girot.arch.ethz.ch/captivewaters/expo


After a long journey from its alpine sources, Zurich’s drinking water is stored in hidden chambers underground before it is ultimately directed to the user. Although being vital to everyday life, these very specifically designed and highly connected infrastructures remain mostly out of sight. The fresh-water reservoirs form a ring of single bodies located on the hilltops around the city’s center. A second lake of the city—decentralized, artificial, underground.


Throughout the historic development of Zurich it’s water supply has been critical to its flourishing as a city. Drinking water could initially only be sourced from groundwater wells or local springs. Both of which still play a role in today’s water supply. But additionally and most importantly today is the sourcing of lake water. The latest opportunity gradually became possible due to a combination of better filtration systems and the cleaning of rivers and lakes in and around Zurich. 


Different infrastructure and nationwide fishery and water protection laws established around 1900 made this shift possible. Ever since the water quality is constantly monitored and improved especially in regards to agricultural chemicals. Since 1914 Zurich gains a large portion of its drinking water from the lake even if a plurality of  water  sources is maintained for the water system to  be resilient towards possible threats and natural disaster. 

Student works of previous Semesters

With support from: