Tom Avermaete is Professor for the History and Theory of Urban Design at ETH Zurich since 2018. His research focuses on the architecture of the city and the changing roles, approaches and tools of architects and urban designers from a cross-cultural perspective.
Knowledge about cities is crucial. More than half of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas and, as a result, the history and theory of urban design is undergoing a phase of rich experimentation. The Chair of the History and Theory of Urban Design accordingly investigates the histories and theories of urban development as critical and prospective capacities, which can forge connections in the present between the past and the future.
The chair explores urban design through three main foci. First, it approaches urban design as material culture, and posits that urban design is not only a set of intangible ideas and concepts but also a knowledge field of material resources, craftsmanship and construction. Secondly, inspired by the diversity and shifting geographies of global urbanisation, the chair broadens the scope of urban design as a cross-cultural knowledge-field by integrating urban design experiences beyond the Euro-American. Finally, the chair conceives of urban design as a common matter. It postulates that the development of cities is as much a prerogative of citizens as of designers, constructors and developers.
The Chair of the History and Theory of Urban Design offers a range of lectures and seminars which explore these three foci, and conducts research projects that sharpen our understanding of the histories, contemporary conditions and future possibilities of urban development. It aims to reclaim the history of urban design as a cross-cultural field of knowledge that engages with the architecture of the city as an integrator of scientific, economic and technical innovation, as well as of social and cultural progress.