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LASER (Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous) is Leonardo/ISAST's international program of evening gatherings that brings artists and scientists together for informal presentations and conversations.

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CHAIR: Prof. Dr. Jill Scott 

LASER Zurich is part of the world wide series.

14.30 Panel-Introduction with each panel member (10 minutes)

15.00 Film- 72 minutes: Natura Urbana/The Brachen of Berlin

16.30 Online interview with the Director- Mathew Gandy by the panel

17.00 Discussion with the Audience, more drinks and Lebanese snacks

18.30 Finish


Today there is a perceived lack of public space that is open to unplanned developments in contemporary cities in affluent countries. Mathew Landy calls these places-Unintentional Landscapes, others call them terrain vague (wastelands). How can we protect and regain these space of the unplanned, those that are neglected or under-privileged in our cities? Nature is supposed to save modern cities from many of their problems: climate change, unsustainable lifestyles, loss of life quality, or lost connectivity to nature and animals. Are green cities a real opportunity or misguided romanticism? How can this complex relationship with urban spaces be re-appropriated by humans? Can artists and scientists collaborate here to offer more open, exploratory, and experimental solutions? How could citizen science help?


CHAIR  Christoph Kueffer, urban ecologist and environmental scientist, HSR Rapperswil and ETH Zurich (moderator). Christoph Kueffer is Professor of Urban Ecology at the Department of Landscape Architecture of the University of Applied Sciences Eastern Switzerland and senior lecturer (Privatdozent) at ETH Zurich. He studied Environmental Sciences at ETH Zurich, and completed his PhD in plant ecology and habilitation in plant and global change ecology at the same university.

Mathew Gandy was born in Islington, North London. He is a cultural, urban, and environmental geographer with particular interests in landscape, infrastructure, and more recently bio-diversity. The historical scope of his work extends from the middle decades of the nineteenth century to the recent past. His research ranges from aspects of environmental history, including epidemiology, to contemporary intersections between nature and culture including the visual arts. is a cultural, urban, and environmental geographer at the University of Cambridge. Matthew Gandy will be available for a commentary after the presentation of his film and Q&A by skype. ( see description below )

Kevin Vega, urban ecologist, PhD student at ETH Zurich. Kevin is interested in how wild plants live in cities: how they spread, self-propagate and whether their populations exchange genes. He spent the last two summers surveying the vegetation of Zurich but also uses latest genetic techniques at the Genetic Diversity Center (GDC) at ETH Zurich. Through the citizen science project “Wo Samen fallen” in collaboration with Juanita Schläpfer (Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center) he involves citizens of Zurich in his projects and observes with them where seed of wild plants fall and where they establish. He investigates the biological processes that drive the patterns of wild urban vegetation documented in the film ‘Natura urbana’.

Bárbara M. Costa, landscape architect, EPFL Lausanne. Barbara Maçaes e Costa was born in Porto (Portugal) and grew up in Aveiro (Portugal) and Milan (Italy). She graduated in 2008 from the University of Porto Faculty of Architecture, having studied under notable professors such as Álvaro Siza and Nuno Portas. At the end of 2011 she moved to Lisbon (PT) and enrolled in the Master program in Drawing at University of Lisbon Faculty of Fine-Arts, which she completed in early 2014, having specialized in Landscape Drawing. Currently she works as an academic assistant at Laboratory Basel (LABA) of EPFL Lausanne where she is researching on spatial representation, cartography, nature writing and environmental aesthetics.

Jill Scott Media artist, Professor Emerita ZhdK, Zurich. Dr. Jill Scott is lecturer, professor and context provider with years of experience the unique field of Art and Science research. In 2000, she founded the Artists-in-Labs Program at the ZhdK. She was the Vice Director of the Z-Node program- at the University of Plymouth, UK (2000 to 2016). Her own artwork spans 40 years of art production and in the last 16 years she has focused on creative media art experiments about neuroscience, ecology and sensory perception. Her latest work involved working on the theme of climate change with visually impaired dancers in the urban slums of Durban South Africa.

THE FILM: Natura Urbana/The Brachen of Berlin (UK/Germany, 72 mins 2017) tells the post-war history of Berlin through its plants. The film takes us from the Trümmerlandschaften, and their unique ecologies, to the abandoned roofs of the Friedrichshagen Waterworks on the edge of the city. We encounter an extraordinary variety of spontaneous vegetation from all over the world that has sprouted along railway lines, on street corners, and in the distinctive Brachen of Berlin. In Natura Urbana the changing vegetation of Berlin serves as a parallel history to war-time destruction, geo-political division, and the newest phase of urban transformation. In addition to stunning urban landscapes, and unknown or rarely seen archive footage, the film also features interviews with leading cultural and scientific figures from Berlin (Herbert Sukopp and Hanns Zischler) Post-war Berlin became the leading centre for the study of urban botany in the world and the city has played a pivotal role in the emergence of “urban ecology” as a distinctive scientific field.

Writer & Director: Matthew Gandy

Executive Producer & Co-author: Sandra Jasper Editor: Wiebke Hofmann

Please Join Us. We look forward to this great afternoon with lively discussions international presentations and encourage local activists from the “wastelands” of Zurich to attend.





LASER (Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous) Talks is Leonardo's international program of evening gatherings that bring artists and scientists together for informal presentations and conversations. LASER Talks were founded in 2008 by Bay Area LASER Chair Piero Scaruffi and are in over 30 cities around the world. To learn more about how our LASER Hosts and to visit a LASER near you please visit our website

The mission of the LASERs is to provide the general public with a snapshot of the cultural environment of a region and to foster interdisciplinary networking.

September 1st, 2018 2:30 PM   through   6:30 PM
Salotto Café
Hardturmstrasse 169
ZH CH-8005

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Phone: 0041 (0)795249211
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