Introduction

Alongside his artistic practice, Philipp Schaerer has been involved in university teaching for many years. After directing the postgraduate CAAD programme under Prof. Ludger Hovestadt at ETH Zurich (2003-2008), Schaerer has been teaching at various universities in Switzerland since 2010 and working as a visiting professor at the EPFL School of Architecture in Lausanne since 2014, where he teaches several semester courses in the field of art and architecture at master’s level. 

The core element of his teaching is exploration of the fragile relationship between the object and pictorial representation thereof, incorporating information technology and computer-based image-processing methods. Investigation of visual phenomena in their socio-cultural and technological context is the basis of this engagement. Encouragement of subjective perception is the first key building block in his teaching concept; the second is the imparting of creativity strategies and experimental composition techniques, and the final component is the promotion of digital expressiveness via development of an expanded computer-aided vocabulary of expression.

In addition to the teaching of various digital image-processing techniques, as well as the development of digital visual strategies, visual approaches and aesthetics (which go beyond striving to implement photographic representation as precisely as possible and can also be abstract, model-like or exaggerated, such that they reformulate the question of how to differentiate between reality and image), the imparting of experimental techniques for design and composition is of particular importance in Schaerer’s teaching. Here, the focus is on (visually) combining and rearranging the supposedly incompatible, creating visual constructs in which everyday objects are interwoven with architectural, urban and landscape fragments – and placed in new contexts in terms of both of image and meaning. These visual constructs have little to do with reality: With regard to content, they are utopias. The process of their creation can often begin with play, chance, intuition and humour, so the creative individual is basically also granted the necessary elasticity and autonomy when creating – and this is all the more important in our environment, which is set to be permeated more and more by rationally working computers and machines. 

The semester courses, each comprising a lecture block and a practical exercise block, are thematically divided into various teaching modules, in which each student develops a final visual work, often in the form of a series of images. Depending on the thematic orientation of the teaching module, media such as drawing, graphics, photography, modelling, montage, rendering, video and animation are used: In most cases, these are digitally generated and processed. 

Individual teaching modules and the resulting student works have been the subject of several publications, as well as exhibitions such as La Narration du Quotidien at the Architecture Forum in Lausanne (2016) and République Géniale at Kunstmuseum Bern (2018): a three-month exhibition, during which eight teaching modules and the corresponding student works (Imaginary Composites – Reconfigured Realities) were projected onto large surfaces.

Besides his teaching at EPFL, Philipp Schaerer maintains an ongoing exchange with other universities and academic bodies in Switzerland and abroad. For instance, on invitation, he has given numerous guest lectures at universities such as Princeton, Rice and Yale in the USA, at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London (Colin Rowe Lecture Series), at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, at NTNU in Trondheim, at FAUP in Porto, at the Goethe University Institute of Art History in Frankfurt and at Bauhaus University in Weimar. The complete list can be found here in the Invited Lectures, Talks & Workshops section.

Writings & Reviews

  • Schaerer, P (2018, November). Nicht eine Frage der Software - Interview mit Philipp Schaerer zu digitalen Bildern in der Architektur [Meret Arnold, Interviewer. On the occasion of the exhibition "République Géniale" at the Kunstmuseum Bern]. > PDF (German)

  • Schaerer, P. (2019). Free your Imagination [Andri Gerber, Interviewer]. In A. Gerber & U. Götz (Eds.), "Architectonics of game spaces: The spatial logic of the virtual and its meaning for the real" (1st ed., pp. 95-110). Bielefeld: Transcript. > PDF (English)