Materials Archive

Experiential space and research centre: the Materials Archive in the Toni-Areal invites discovery. Photograph: Betty Fleck © ZHdK

My favourite piece


Somewhat hidden at the very back of the gallery at the Media and Information Centre (MIZ) lies a fascinating and stimulating treasure and cabinet of curiosities. A thousand objects are stored here — an enormous wealth of material samples at the visitor’s immediate disposal. If that’s not enough, you can access the associated database. Fed by ZHdK and nine equally potent and diverse project partners, the online collection gathers insights and findings from material explorations in a way that is probably unique worldwide. The archive can be accessed online or on-site (users can place the microchipped exhibits on a digital reading table).

In association with the eponymous network — which besides ZHdK comprises other universities, as well as the Gewerbemuseum Winterthur, the Zürcher Baumusterzentrale or the Sitterwerk in St. Gallen — the Materials Archive is a place of teaching and learning that elegantly dusts off the Pestalozzian approach of “learning with one’s head, heart and hands.” This is also reflected in the manifold minors offered at ZHdK, which are core to an ongoing programme reform striving for nothing less than reinventing higher arts education.

Regarding individual works and projects, the Materials Archive represents a “Use it” in the best sense of the word. It functions just as well as an experiential space as it does as a research centre where users can examine both the semantics and iconography of materials, as well as the technical requirements and possibilities of different materials. While for some people material possesses a language that needs to be understood, for others it is simply material, whose mastery is central to artistic and creative processes.

But the Materials Archive is also simply a particularly beautiful contemplative space and thus a fermata amid the everyday hustle and bustle at the Toni. A favourite piece. Use it!

In this section, members of ZHdK present their favourite objects. For other favourite pieces visit:
Dr. Andreas Vogel ( is director of the Department of Cultural Analysis at ZHdK.
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