The invention of Carouge, 50 years after: crossing history, theory and urban ethnography (SwissUniversities)


Lecturer(s) :

Armando Alessandro
Bideau André
Cogato Lanza Elena
De Pieri Filippo
Graezer Bideau Florence





Cette année uniquement


The course requires a good understanding of French in order to conduct collective fieldwork in Carouge


The course, including a common fieldwork, aims at revisiting the 1968 book, assessing its legacy and discussing whether the analytical instruments deployed by Corboz remain valid, or what have changed in our understanding of the mutual links between urban history, design, analysis and ethnography.



The course is organized on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the publication (1968) of the Invention de Carouge, a text written by Swiss historian of art, architecture and urbanism André Corboz. Focused on the study of the new town of Carouge (planned and built by the Savoyard state in the 18th century near Geneva and later incorporated as a borough of the latter), Corboz¿ research was an ambitious attempt to combine a historical case study, urban analysis and planning theory. The topic of his book also represented a vector of cultural exchange between Turin and Switzerland in the following years, most notably on the occasion of the exhibition on Carouge organized by Turin¿s State Archives in the mid-1980s.

The course aims at revisiting Corboz' book, assessing its legacy and discussing whether the analytical instruments he deployed are still valid, or what has changed in our understanding of the mutual links between urban history, design, analysis and ethnography. It will include a common fieldwork to test various tools and perspectives related to the study of Carouge. 4 axes will be developed through the student¿s fieldwork, jointly producing an interdisciplinary workshop in order to enhance the need of a collaborative approach.

_Integrating the history of architecture into urban history

The Invention de Carouge was a study that postulated the existence of a close relationship between the history of architecture and the history of urbanism and which for that very reason initiated an implicit dialogue with much urban research of the twentieth century, based both on a historical study of architectural objects and their interpretation as elements of an urban context. Several questions will be raised: Which methods were put in place for this purpose in the 1968 book? What other techniques of observation and analysis could be used today to test the validity of this approach and renew the glance on the spot toward a renewal of fieldwork in the history of urbanism?

_ Observing everyday practices of local inhabitants

Heightening the focus on the observation and participant observation, this axis will highlight the presence of researchers in the field. By reflecting on anthropological and methodological considerations, it aims to look at different local communities or social groups living in Carouge and study the evolution of few neighbourhoods by examining their identity markers through their narratives and practices. Specific attention will be drawn to the expression of social, historic, cultural, economic or political identities in the public spaces and to the dynamic of boundaries between social groups (marks of their presence, displacement or even disappearance).

_Mapping the Palimpsest

How to understand and develop the statement "the monument of Carouge is its plan", made by Corboz in 1968? In its day, the shifting of the discourse on the city towards a history of ideas and concepts was fundamental as a critique of functionalist urbanism. Corboz¿s subsequent deployment of the metaphor of Palimpsest must therefore be contextualized. This axis seeks to identify the long duration of the plan, its impacts at all scales and according to all registers (structure of the plan, urban morphology, architectural expression, functional). It will also address the question of borders and transitions between urban structures and their planning principles, especially in the reading of the evolution of Carouge for 50 years. It will finally address the potential of GIS data in palimpsest mapping.

_Mapping the research process (or Mapping the Text)

How to study the Corbozian architecture of connections and information within the book? This axis aims at tracing a series of multidimensional maps by using a set of network mapping tools and charts of sequential connection: which travels from the archives to the plans, from the architects' biographies and their work as authors to their proposals for Carouge, from the historical framing in Corboz's narrative to the explicating cartographic charts.

The seminar will be held in English and French. It will take place in Geneva at the Fondation Braillard Architectes (lectures) and in Carouge (collective fieldwork).

The seminar is organised in partnership by CDH-EPFl, Lab-U EPFL, Polytechnique de Turin, Accademia di architettura de Mendrisio, Fondation Braillard Architectes and the EPFL Center HABITAT, in the frame of Swissuniversities program.


These 3 days of workshop-seminar including 2 key notes conferences (Alain Léveillé and Marcellin Barthassat); 3 half-days of fieldwork in Carouge supervised by the responsible of the course and 1 half-day of feedback on each participant¿s production.

Acquis de formation

A la fin de ce cours l'étudiant doit être capable de:



André Corboz, Invention de Carouge, Lausanne, Payot, 1968.

Bâtir une ville au siècle des lumières. Carouge : modèles et réalités, catalogue de l¿exposition (Carouge, 29 mai-30 septembre 1986), Torino, Archivio di Stato, 1986.

Pierre Barde, L¿invention de Carouge : le premier urbanisme moderne, RTS, 1971

Ressources en bibliothèque

In the programs

  • Architecture and Sciences of the City (edoc), 2018-2019
    • Semester
    • Exam form
    • Credits
    • Subject examined
      The invention of Carouge, 50 years after: crossing history, theory and urban ethnography (SwissUniversities)
    • Number of places
    • Lecture
      10 Hour(s)
    • Exercises
      50 Hour(s)
    • Practical work
      45 Hour(s)

Reference week

Exercise, TP
Project, other


  • Autumn semester
  • Winter sessions
  • Spring semester
  • Summer sessions
  • Lecture in French
  • Lecture in English
  • Lecture in German