The first-ever semester course at a university on the “Planning of Underground Space” started this February at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. Over 140 graduate students from the fields of civil engineering, spatial development and infrastructure systems enrolled for a spring semester which was full of new perspectives, experiences and knowledge exchange.
The lectures were held by Antonia Cornaro, an urban planner by background and responsible for the business field Underground Space at Amberg Engineering. What role the underground space plays in urban development from a historical, social, design, ecological, economical and sustainability perspective, is at the core of the lecture series. The interdisciplinarity of the presented topics and composition of the students represents a novelty.
The outbreak of Covid-19 shortly after the start of the new semester, posed new challenges in teaching and studying: “A good part of the lectures were held by digital means which limited the possibilities of personal interactions. Furthermore, I had to stand in front of a huge, empty lecture hall most of the time, talking to my students via video recordings”, says Cornaro. Despite those exceptional circumstances, she managed to connect and communicate with the students, 124 of which successfully completed the course requirements.
“To me, teaching those young people means interacting with the new generation and really thinking ahead for the future of our cities and our planet, as well as their professional future.”
The students also capably handled the new situation. “The course was well organized with videos and digital documentation,” one of them commented after the semester. Another said: “I have been enjoying the lecture this term about the planning of underground spaces. It has already opened my eyes to the need for stewardship of underground space in particular.”
In a survey of the new lecture, 90% responded that they would further recommend the course.