Peter Märkli on Education, Research and Practice in Architecture

Peter Märkli

Interview with Peter Märkli by Jan Schevers and Heleen Herrenberg:
Peter Märkli on Education, Research and Practice in Architecture

This interview is part of the series by the Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands.jkhg

Peter Märkli describes his teaching methods as he talks about his own practice and compares his approach as a student with what he is used to see from students today. For students he has two important points: 1_He emphasises the importance of learning the ‘language’ of architecture on the example of learning an alphabet – only then we can understand the whole – because without conventions we would not understand each other. 2_He says that it is crutial for everyone to position him/herself personally withnin a society, because a simple production of beauty, as he says, is not what is needed. It is not possible without being rooted somewhere.
Another topic he stresses is the importance of references outside of architecture – film, painting, literature, sculpture, etc. As he said “Contradiction in art is considered as a positive thing. “I learned that from Goethe and not from the ETH.” (Märkli, 2012)
Last but not least topic is the importance of knowing the context as shown on the palaces of Genoa, which are not there because of the architect’s decision but because of the trade with France and Spain due to which Genoa became rich and could have built such palaces.
His recomendation for school is to teach history of civilization – not history restricted to architecture only.

Other bullet points:

– there is no need to be actual and always ‘new’
– continuous build-up of knowledge during your studies
– importance of being rooted in society, to know one’s place
– emotion is first, knowledge comes next
– painter has a format – a frame within which he places his universe; then in gallery there is multitude of universes next to each other; architecture is outside the frame – context is much wider
– not important if everything fits precisely, awkwardness in house is the best thing
– very little general knowledge now in Switzerland – students do not know about history and they cannot orient themselves in history
– “computer is not a replacement for life or fantasy” (Märkli, 2012); it is not always at hand while pencil is
– people who do not know their ‘alphabet’ tend to call everything original
– to much paper is produced to say so little

Schevers, J., Herrenberg, H. [Jan Schevers]. (2012, January, 31). Peter Märkli on Education, Research and Practice in Architecture. [Video file]. Retrieved from:

Further reading 1:
Märkli, Professur an der ETH Zürich, 2002-2012. Anlässlich der Ausstellung vom 11. Mai-10. Juli 2012 in der Gallery A4 in Tokio, Japan. (On the occasion of the exhibition in Tokio, Japan: 11. May-10. July 2012.)

Imoberdorf, C., Märkli, P. (2012). Märkli, Professur an der ETH Zürich. Kösel GmbH & Co. KG.

– publication with examples of his students’ projects when he was teaching at ETH
– their semester tasks touch topics like: need of continuity of building in existing contexts; lack of expression of today’s architecture

Further reading 2:
Peter Märkli. Zeichnungen/Drawings.

Mion, C., Don, F. (Ed.). (2015). Peter Märkli. Zeichnungen/Drawings. Luzern: Quart Verlag.

Peter Märkli on Education, Research and Practice in Architecture