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ETH EPFL SDL PhD summer school

June 4, 2021 - June 12, 2021

An experiential educational co-creation hybridizing science, design, social outdoor joy, and local people action. 

Organized by ETH Zurich, EPFL Lausanne, MonViso InstitutePartnering with The Oslo School of Architecture and Design, TU Delft, and Politecnico Torino.

This PhD school prototypes a new hybrid format as part of the future of higher education: a physical onsite core group, small and rich, developing place-based content with reasonable travel effort; accompanied and embedded in a virtual setting to allow global participation with a low carbon footprint and rich cross-fertilization.

PhD students and teaching staff traveling with public transport or electric car within Europe are invited to join for the onsite week. PhD and advanced Master students and teaching staff dependent on air travel are invited to participate virtually.

Summary of Idea and Objectives

Urban and alpine areas around the globe are socio-economically connected, through the exchange of goods, through tourism, through various up- and downstream cycles -we refer to alpine-urban circularity. Many mountain livelihoods are dependent on the flow of urban populations seeking refuge in nature. Increasing urban heat has driven city dwellers to cooler temperatures at higher elevations. With urban populations more economically inclined to travel, they contribute to a higher carbon footprint, which leads to increased pollution, traffic and overtourism. This urban-alpine migration has been dramatically accelerated due to COVID19, as many city dwellers sought escape from both the disease and the lock-down restrictions. The increased urban demand for accessibility to nature and the connected thrive for limits to tourism in alpine communities call for the urgent challenge of cultivating new alpine-urban solidarity. Radical transformative change and multilateral cooperation across scales are critical to building resilience to interrelated global crises through regenerative local and regional practices.

What makes a mountain community and its livelihoods resilient, given the current social, economic and ecological pressures? What makes it worth living in a rural mountain community? What are community regeneration strategies in remote geographies, like mountains? How does “more nature” relate with compassion for nature, systems thinking, and acting? And how do urban and rural/alpine places interact? How does this change our awareness as visitor/tourist, and as a local? What can we learn for re-designing how we live back in the urban, in cities?

During this PhD summer school in the Italian Alps with its virtual global reach, we will discover and design approaches to these questions, merging science, design, and local practice in and from a wonderful, wild, dynamic, mountain outdoor environment – stimulating local physical action as well wherever you (virtually) participate from. The idea is to engage in a rich local “real” setting with a smaller core group of people, while carrying these experiences out into the world by virtual means, nudging local physical action and allowing basically anyone to participate, and even more so feedback some of the remote simultaneous experiences from virtual participants back to the main onsite program.

Lecturers and tutors

The team of lecturers and tutors will participate and be present partly virtual, partly onsite, not all together, but in healthy chunks of time.

Virtual team:

Daniel Christian Wahl, PhD, Mallorca. Worldview educator; regeneration weaver in the Mediterranean; sustainability consultant; author of “Designing Regenerative Cultures“.

Julia Watson, New York, Harvard University. Design critic in urban planning and design; TED speaker and author of “Lo-TEK, Design by Radical Indigenism“. (tbc)

Eric L. Berlow, PhD, California. Social impact data scientist, TED senior fellow, head of Vibrant Data Labs and developer of network explorer software Openmappr, owner of the Swall Institute in the High Sierra desert. (tbc)

Adrienne Grêt-Regamey, PhD, Professor at ETH Zurich. Director of the Chair of Planning Landscape and Urban Systems (PLUS) and steering committee of the ETH Future Cities Lab. (tbc)

Birger Sevaldson, PhD. Norway. Professor for Systems Oriented Design at The Oslo School of Architecture and Design.

Ingrid Halland, PhD, Norway. Assoc. Professor at The Oslo School of Architecture and Design. Architecture and design historian. Art writer.

Philippe Vandenbroeck, Netherlands. Co-founder of ShiftN, Creating Clarity in Complexity. Author, photoprapher, mountain sports enthusiast. (tbc)

Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer, PhD, Netherlands. Assoc. Professor at Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, TU Delft. (tbc)

Lydia Pedoth, Researcher in community resilience, EURAC Bozen. Consultant, United Nations University, Global Mountain Safeguard Research (GLOMOS). (tbc)

Ross Harding, Australia. Sustainable city innovator. Founder of Finding Infinity and off-the-grid party thrower. (tbc)

Onsite team:

Tobias Luthe, PhD, Assoc. Professor at The Oslo School of Architecture and Design, and Head of ETH Zurich Systemic Design Labs. Co-founder of MonViso Institute and Grown lab.

Catherine De Wolf, PhD, Assist. Professor at ETH Zurich. Circular Engineering for Architecture.

Romano Wyss, PhD, senior scientist at EPFL Lausanne and scientific consultant. Energy resilience, social networks, mountain tourism systems.

Silvia Barbero, PhD. Assoc. Professor in Systemic Design with a focus on circular regional economies at Department of Architecture and Design, Politecnico di Torino. Chair of the Systemic Design Association.

Andrea Bocco, PhD, Professor and Head of Department of Regional and Urban Studies and Planning, Politecnico di Torino. Author of the book “Vegetarian Architecture” (tbc)

Pier Paolo Peruccio, PhD. Assoc. Professor in Systemic Design and Industrial Design History at Politecnico di Torino. Director of the SYDERE center (Systemic Design Research and Education) in Lyon and Torino. World Design Organization board member.

Mirjam Luthe, certified teacher in Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC), Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), and Mark Coleman’s “Awake in the Wild” year-long training in contemplative nature practice.

Justyna Swat, Design tutor at ENSCi les Ateliers School of Industrial Design, Paris. Visiting lecturer at Royal College of Art, London. Founder of 1983f.com.

Nicolas Salliou, PhD, ETH Zurich. Participatory modeler and serious game developer.

Benjamin Marias. First vice mayor of Annecy, France. Co-founder of AIR coop.

Matteo Arietti & Andrea Bulloni, Torino/Milano. Architects, winners of the competition ‘Europan Europe’.

Marion Real, PhD. Systemic Designer, Fab Lab Bcn/ IAAC Barcelona. Onsite Facilitator for Distributed Ecosystems at this summer school.


Silvia Rovere, Mayor of Ostana

Enrico Crespo, Valle dell’Eco. Local (knowledge) builder in Ostana

The supporting community of Ostana


English with some local inclusive Italian (full translation)

Hybrid format

Onsite – MonViso InstituteOstana (Italy)

& Virtual-global


June 4, 2021
June 12, 2021