Book Review: Urbanscape Switzerland

Urbanscape Switzerland by Angelus Eisinger and Michel Schneider, published by Birkhäuser, 1999. Hardcover, 368 pages. (Amazon)

Subtitled "Investigations and Case Studies on Topology and Regional Development in Switzerland", this book is the product of a commission by Avenir Suisse (Think Tank for Economic and Social Issues) to examine the European country's contemporary urban condition and its future potential. Essays and interviews feature experts from various fields, including economics, sociology, politics and architecture, commenting on issues like the urban agglomerations of Geneva, Basel and the Ticino; areas of cross-border fertilization and intense development that belie the traditional view of small villages and towns dotting the Swiss countryside. Interspersed between these texts are color photographs by Joël Tettamanti that give relief to the 400-page document and illustrate the problems these thinkers are addressing. The book's highlight is Dutch firm MVRDV's contribution, a three-part analysis of 1) the country's geography and politics, 2) land use and density, and 3) development possibilities based on the previous two. Their graphic analysis helps to give an outsider an understanding of the current Swiss state, while their future scenarios (and the book as a whole) address the dilemna of this and other countries in today's globally interconnected situation: balancing both international and internal interests.