ETH Zurich's weekly web journal - auf deutsch
ETH Life - wissen was laeuft ETH Life - wissen was laeuft

ETH Life - wissen was laeuft ETH Life - wissen was laeuft

ETH - Eidgenoessische Technische Hochschule Zuerich - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich
Section: Campus Life
deutsche Version english Version
Print-Version Drucken

Published: 09.11.2006, 06:00
Modified: 08.11.2006, 22:45
ETH Anniversary Project
A castle in the air took real shape

Something that began as a Utopia in 2003 has now become a reality. The ETH House of Science in Afghanistan was handed over to the University of Bamiyan at a ceremony on 31 October.

Martina Märki

The formal inauguration and handover of the building to the University of Bamiyan, which took place on 31 October in the presence of Yunus Qanuni, President of the Afghan Parliament, is an important milestone of an ETH anniversary project that began as a far-fetched idea and became a reality only thanks to the large amount of idealistic support given to it again and again. A delegation from ETH Zurich took part in the inauguration. Its members were Professor Olaf Kübler, former President of ETH Zurich, Professor Meinrad Eberle, who led the ETH Anniversary Year and Professor Albert Stahel, Afghanistan expert and project adviser, together with student representatives of ETH Zurich.

Competition winners on site

Also present in addition to National Council Member Jo Lang were the three young architects Ivica Brnic, Florian Graf and Wolfgang Rossbauer, from whose drawing board the project originates. They took part in 2003 in the young talent competition called “Castle in the Air” for which the two ETH Building Departments had invited entries for a commemorative architectural project to mark the 150th birthday of ETH. However, they wanted to build their “Castle in the Air” in the Third World instead of in Zurich as actually intended. After being developed into building plans and specifically related to a site in Afghanistan, the project was ultimately victorious in the final round of judging in July 2004 as the most unconventional, most risky but also the most convincing embodiment of the competition’s subject: a castle in the air that had found a place and a purpose, promised to be long-lasting and at the same time retained the vision of the competition’s utopian objectives. (1)

Science with practical accountability

The fact that it was possible for the building to be completed in spite of the currently re-escalating political situation in Afghanistan is in itself a symbol of hope.


The Minister for Higher Education, Azam Datfar, and former ETH President Olaf Kübler sign an agreement governing the handover of the university centre to the University of Bamiyan. large

However, the completion of construction work is not intended to be the end of the project. The purpose of the building is not only to provide the young University of Bamiyan with a modern infrastructure but also as far as possible to fill it with content through reciprocal knowledge transfer. Here again reliance is placed mainly on the idealism of the younger generation. Professor Mario Fontana stresses that “The ETH House of Science was conceived by students and should also continue to be sustained by the research ideas of students."

The intention is to enable ETH students to develop research projects in Bamiyan with funding from the Project, and conversely students from Bamiyan are also to be given the opportunity to come to Zurich for a short time with ETH support. Regarding subject matter, the main emphasis will be on the disciplines of Civil Engineering/Geomatics, Information Science, Political and Cultural Sciences and Agronomy/Economics, i.e. subjects that are immediately relevant to the country of Afghanistan. “The ETH House of Science will convince all those who also measure the value of science by the extent to which it is willing to accept practical accountability everywhere in the world,” says Professor Andreas Tönnesmann, who jointly headed the Project with Mario Fontana.

Web site of the project:

(1) Cf. ETH Life article "Vom Luftschloss zum konkreten Turm ":

You can write a feedback to this article or read the existing comments.

!!! Dieses Dokument stammt aus dem ETH Web-Archiv und wird nicht mehr gepflegt !!!
!!! This document is stored in the ETH Web archive and is no longer maintained !!!