I am a geographer and urban scholar working at the intersection of urban studies, science and technology research and user centred design. Currently, I am a senior scientist (MER) at the Institute of Geography and Sustainability, University of Lausanne (IGD). I have been member of ETH CASE (Centre for Research on Architecture, Society and the Built Environment, ETH Zurich) and research associate in Geography at the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland. Earlier, I have studied Geography, Sociology and Urbanism at the University of Fribourg and Paris IV La Sorbonne.
My actual work is around two book publications: Repair Work Ethnographies. Revisiting Breakdown, Relocating Materiality (Palgrave MacMillan, forthcoming) (co-edited with Alain Bovet and Philippe Sormani) and Architecture Competition. Project Design and the Building Process (Routledge, 2017) (co-edited with Jan Silberberger).
In my research projects, I am implementing what Susan Leigh-Star named ‘infrastructural inversion’. This means to understand key urban concepts such as, for example, ‘city’, ‘neighbourhood’, ‘environment’, ‘mobility’, ‘economy’, ‘housing’, ‘infrastructure’, ‘building’, ‘public space’ and ‘private home’ as assemblages that are made in and through the practices that people accomplish at work and in their everyday life. I have collaborated in smaller studies on how people use cars, computers and work tools in everyday activities. However, my main focus is on ‘urban’ work practices and decision making, in professional settings such as, for example, rental offices, workshops of infrastructure services, building maintenance, jury boards of architectural competitions, planning companies, offices of municipal administration or on construction sites. On a theoretical level I think cities and urban infrastructure relationally, an effectual way to do so is to put Urban Geography literature in conversation with Actor-Network Theory. Moreover, this approach to material conditions, procedural knowledge and social circumstances of ‘what urban stuff is made of’ (see my blog) is a unique opportunity to specify ‘sustainability’, ‘ecological design’ and similar catchwords in practical terms, as contingent achievements of what people do and what they produce, through particular methods makeshifts and collaborative work.
An important focus of my work is to develop ways of engaging with the public and connecting with design projects. I work with stakeholders and user groups using methodological tools such as, for example, focus groups, work place studies, participant observation and usability tests to bring in user experiences and needs into design processes. This is helpful for urban projects, but also the development of low-tech devices, high-tech systems and digital environments. A good example of how geographers, social scientists and interaction researchers can contribute to technology development and design is the web platform and digital archive KONKURADO | Web of Design Competitions. This online-tool supports organisation, participation and archiving of architectural competitions in Switzerland. Version 1.0 of this platform was developed in the project Architecture Competition as Knowledge System from 2011-2013. Using user centred design methodology, it involved stakeholders and future users at every stage of the design process.
I have also co-directed (with Susanne Hofer) the film documentation Building Care. That’s why our cities do not fall apart (ETH Wohnforum – ETH CASE, 2014) and have recently edited the book Hauswartung. Für Bauten und Bewohnerschaft (Building Care: for Buildings and Inhabitants) (Birkhäuser, 2015).