New and First-ever Course: Planning of Underground Space Use

15 June 2020


The first-ever semester course at a university on the „Planning of Underground Space“ started this spring semester 2020 with over 135 enrolled students at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH)  in Zurich. The lecture series focuses on the role of underground space in urban development from a historical, social, design, ecological, economic and sustainability perspective.

The underground space in cities holds an undiscovered or not optimally used potential that can, should and will contribute to the sustainable development of our cities. The need to plan the third dimension below the surface is crucial in making our cities future-proof, resilient, sustainable and liveable. The course provides insights, case examples and concepts from early forms of underground use for living, conservation, storage and protection to modern times and the future of underground development. It highlights that the planning of the urban underground requires multidisciplinary cooperation of professionals to create a new urban tissue among our cities.

Taught by lecturer Antonia Cornaro, whose background is in urban and infrastructure planning, with a professional specialisation in underground space planning, the lecture series is based on the book by Han Admiraal and herself:  „Underground Spaces Unveiled: Planning and Creating the Cities of the Future“, which received the Gerd Albers Award 2018 in the category best book by the International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP). Both co-authors also co-chair the ITA Committee of Underground Space ITACUS.

The course caters to students interested in all aspects of the built environment and is offered especially to Master students in Civil Engineering and REIS (spatial planning and infrastructure systems). The students will gain an appreciation and knowledge of what asset lies beneath our feet and what factors, opportunities and challenges to consider when planning the underground space. 

Despite COVID-19, the lecture series was held digitally for a good part of the semester. 124 Students successfully completed the requirements. It will be taught again in the Spring of 2021. The latest Annual Report of ETH’s Department D-BAU-G features the new lecture on p. 58-60, you can read it on this page or download the full report here.

Watch this short video in which Antonia talks about the course’s core purpose. 

Read about Antonia's lecture at ETH in the Annual Report 2019