Maxime Zaugg obtained his master’s degree in architecture at the ETH Zurich and is currently Ph.D. candidate and scientific assistant at the Chair of the History and Theory of Urban Design, gta, ETH Zurich under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Tom Avermaete. His project entitled “Exploring Urban Models” examines how strong performative and participative capacities have enabled urban scale models to play a key role in urban planning, focusing particularly on the period from the late 1960s to the early 1990s. Maxime Zaugg teaches at ETH Zurich at the Bachelor and Masters level and is a representative of the AAA (Association of Assistants at the Department of Architecture). He is co-organizer of the gta Invites, a lecture series that invites practitioners and academics from both within and outside ETH Zurich in dialogue. Maxime Zaugg founded the practice STUDIO (2017) which mediates between architecture and the city applying different media and tools and contributes to competitions, urban research, workshops, and realizations.
Exploring Urban Models: The Projets Urbains and the Performance of the “Maquette”, 1960s – 1990s
Ph.D. project at the Chair of the History and Theory of Urban Design, gta, ETH Zurich under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Tom Avermaete, Prof Dr. Thea Brejzek and Prof. Dr. Janina Gosseye
Little research exists on urban models. In existing scholarship, they are often lumped together with architectural models. Although urban models certainly possess characteristics that are similar to those of architectural models, they also differ. The key difference, this research project hypothesizes, is that in urban models, the performative capacity of the model takes precedence over its semiotic and compositional functions. The research project furthermore posits that this performative capacity of urban models – i.e. its ability to negotiate between various actors, regulatory requirements, functional demands, political ambitions, etc. over longer periods of time – intensified from the 1960s on with the shift of paradigm in urban planning and during the 1980s, when the Projets Urbains grew in popularity. Derived from participative urban strategies and the structural changes in urban development, the Projets Urbains offered an alternative to top-down master-planning by favouring more punctual and strategic urban interventions. The strong cooperative character of this type of urban development heavily influenced contemporary planning and design methods and led to a ‘golden age’ for urban models – an age when their performative capacities were used to their full potential. This project examines how this strong performative capacity has enabled urban models to play a key role in urban planning, focusing particularly on the period from the late 1960s to the early 1990s.
The Urban Scale Model of the Project of Les Halles. Paris, 1968. (Photo by Georges Melet/Paris Match) © Getty Images