gta Archives
About

  1. Sigfried Giedion und Fotograf Hugo Herdeg in der Höhle Tuc d’Audoubert, um 1952
  2. Gustav Gull, Umbau der Halle des ETH–Hauptgebäudes von Gottfried Semper, 1915


Since the foundation of the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich in 1967, the gta Archives have been collecting and archiving original documents — dating from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day — on the subjects of architecture, urban planning, civil engineering, design and landscape design.

The Archives are positioned as an active research platform within an internationally oriented university. It makes a major contribution to the preservation and protection of cultural assets and thus to preventing the loss of knowledge. In addition, it provides historical perspectives on which to base current architectural debates on theory and practice. The majority of the Archives’ holdings are of international significance and thus reflect the lively relations linking Switzerland and ETH with the rest of the world. The gta Archives were founded at the University’s School of Architecture, now the Department of Architecture (D-ARCH), and has expanded along with it. Teaching work at the D-ARCH and the architectural development of ETH are impressively documented in the relevant posthumous papers and collections. The numerous collections of posthumous papers donated by ETH graduates make it possible in turn to trace the Department’s influence on Swiss and international architectural debates.

The gta Archives are more than just one section of the gta Institute; they represent the ‘material basis’ for it. Committed to the same ideals as ETH, it is involved in teaching work and provides students and researchers with low-threshold access to original historic documents. It develops synergies together with the D-ARCH and the Institute’s various chairs and other sections (gta Exhibitions, gta Publishers) and is thus an indispensable partner in teaching and research work at the D-ARCH.

The influence of the Archives and their holdings – in the published research literature, in exhibitions held by prestigious museums and in numerous national and international collaborations and networks – makes a fundamental contribution to the recognition that ETH enjoys in Switzerland and abroad. Planned improvements in accessibility through digital networks (based on the open-source principle) will once again decisively expand the Archives’ sphere of action over the coming years. Even today, the gta Archives act as a magnet for researchers not only from Switzerland but from all over the world.

The essence and mission of a living, active archive include ensuring continuous and well-planned growth in its holdings in order to secure historical knowledge in its physical and material form and keep it available for future generations. The gta Archives are committed to this fundamental principle.

Holdings


The main focus of the gta Archives’ collection work is on cohesive original holdings in the fields of architecture, architectural theory, local, regional and national planning, and garden architecture and landscape design, from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries. There is a lesser emphasis on outstanding individual documents. The core holdings consist of over 200 collections of the posthumous papers of major figures in these fields (such as the Semper school, reform architecture around 1900, pioneers of modernism, Neues Bauen and the Solothurn school). Architects who have taught at ETH have often also been the same architects who designed the University’s own buildings. The ETH buildings in Zurich and the continuing extensions of the historic fabric are therefore also comprehensively documented in the gta Archives. The collections of posthumous papers that have been brought together in the Archives over many decades representatively cover the most important and internationally significant standpoints taken in Swiss architectural culture over a period of more than 150 years.

The gta Archives also maintain various special collections (the collection of plans, photo and picture collection, collection of models, film library) and in addition it is responsible on commission for the archives of various other institutions (such as the Archive of the League of Swiss Architects [BSA], the Historical Archives of the SIA and ZIA, and the Photo Collection of the Swiss Werkbund). The NSL Archive (City and Countryside Network, NSL) includes the posthumous papers of the pioneers of Swiss regional and national planning, and of important Swiss garden and landscape architects. A special collection that attracts particular attention internationally is the Archive of the International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM), which includes the materials from the office of the organisation’s Secretariat in Zurich, run by Sigfried Giedion, and documents from numerous prominent members of the organisation from all over the world.



Further information
Das Architektur Gedächtnis der Schweiz
Andreas Tönnesmann und Bruno Maurer, "collecting architecture today and tomorrow", in: ICAM print 03