Opening up ONA

The physical space of the Chair of Architecture & Urban Transformation, the Design in Dialogue Lab, is located inside the ONA building, a repurposed industrial building on the border of the neighborhoods of Seebach & Oerlikon in Zürich, Switzerland. The building is currently shared by a range of smaller companies and several institutes of ETH Zürich’s Department of Architecture.

As a versatile work and dialogue setting, it offers a variety of configurations that allow us to come together, test new ideas and practices and to reflect, share and relax. Combining theatrical elements with tools for co-production, the Lab offers the conditions for a variety of work sessions, informal gatherings, small presentations, collective cooking and public events.


In the context of the Open Public Structures (OPS) programme the NEWROPE chair wants to gradually open up the Design in Dialogue Lab to the wider neighbourhood and transform it temporarily into an open public space, a convivial place, where students and staff members of ETH Zürich can meet and mingle with a mix of local residents, entrepreneurs and others.

Imagine it as a laboratory or incubator for the development of concepts and formats for similar open structures around Zurich and other European cities, or as an Open Neighbourhood Atelier. We see the Open Neighbourhood Atelier as an experiment on openness and publicness. A gesture from a big academic institution toward the neighbourhood where it is placed. And an invitation to all to re-imagine and re-define notions of collectivity and community in a time of forced isolation.

During this test phase the NEWROPE chair will use the Design in Dialogue approach to bring different stakeholders and (other) potential users together to collectively define the aims and constraints of this shared effort to open up the ONA building. During a series of Design in Dialogue workshops representatives of various communities will help to write a programme for a number of open spaces and public activities in and around the ONA building. In parallel, ETH Zürich students and experts from various fields (architecture, sociology, ecology, anthropology), will develop temporary (spatial) interventions that can be used to test certain ideas and formats.

Questions that will be addressed include: How open can a university (building) be towards the neighbourhood and the city? How public can and should it be? What type of interactions can be enabled? How to balance the interests of primary and secondary users of a space? And how do you make sure that such spaces become and remain open and accessible to different users and activities?

Simultaneously, the NEWROPE chair is involved in similar attempts to create new open public structures and learning environments across the campus of ETH Zürich and in other European cities. Slowly these experiments will create a growing network of Open Public Structures.The first (design) phase of this project will take place in the spring and summer of 2021. Please let us know if you have questions or want to get involved in this experiment by contacting Charlotte Schaeben or Panayotis Antoniadis