Zurich University of the Arts

Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK, German: Zürcher Hochschule der Künste) has approximately 2,500 students,[3] which makes it the largest arts university in Switzerland.[4] The university was established in 2007, following the merger between Zurich's School of Art and Design (HGKZ) and the School of Music, Drama, and Dance (HMT). ZHdK is one of four universities affiliated to Zürcher Fachhochschule.

Zurich University of the Arts - ZHdK
Zürcher Hochschule der Künste ZHdK Part of Zürcher Fachhochschule
ZHdK Logo.svg
TypePublic University
Established1878, 2007
PresidentThomas D. Meier
Administrative staff
1310 [1]
Location, ,

ZHdK offers Bachelor's and master's degree courses and further education programmes in art, design, music, art education, theatre, film, dance, transdisciplinary studies as well as PhD programmes in collaboration with different international Art Uniuversities and with ETH Zurich. ZHdK holds an active role in research, especially in artistic research and design research.[5]

Affiliated to ZHdK are the Museum of Design, Zurich, the Theater der Künste (Theatre of the Arts), the Mehrspur Music Club, and the Media and Information Centre (MIZ).


Established on 1 August 2007, Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) resulted from the merger between the Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst Zürich (HGKZ), which had arisen from the Kunstgewerbeschule Zürich (founded in 1878), and the School of Drama, music, and Dance (HMT).[6] The founding president of the new arts university was Professor Hans-Peter Schwarz. Since November 2009, Professor Thomas D. Meier has been president of ZHdK.

The Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst Zürich (HGKZ) arose from the Kunstgewerbeschule Zürich (founded in 1878). It was located in a building constructed by architects Adolf Steger and Karl Egender, which today also houses the Museum of Design, Zurich.

The School of Music, Drama, and Dance (HMT) was the result of a merger in 1999 between Winterthur and Zurich conservatories of music, Zurich's Jazz School, Zurich's Theatre and Acting Academy, and the Swiss Professional Ballet School. ZHdK's programme in Theatre Studies (affiliated to the Department of Performing Arts and Film) was originally established in 1937, in the context of the Schauspielhaus Zürich (the city's principal theatre), and known as the Bühnenstudio Zürich. It was renamed Schauspiel-Akademie Zürich in the early 1970s.

Following the 2007 school merger, ZHdK occupies 35 sites, spread across the cities of Zurich (Ausstellungsstrasse, Florhof, Mediacampus, Gessnerallee) and Winterthur. In the autumn of 2014, ZHdK will be relocating to its new campus: the Toni Areal (under construction) in the city's thriving western district (Zurich West). With the exception of its Gessnerallee annex, ZHdK will be leaving all other sites to unite the arts under one roof. The Museum of Design, Zurich and the Bellerive Museum will remain at their current locations.

Teaching and Learning / Research and InnovationEdit

Zurich University of the Arts provides an outstanding teaching and learning environment. The highly competent faculty and state-of-the-art degree courses ensure the provision of excellent art and design education and teacher training in these fields. The teaching strives to enable young, talented individuals to gain insights and experience that will equip them with the knowledge and skills needed to play an active and innovative role as qualified professionals in the world of culture and the creative disciplines. Coursework is highly individualised, designed to make students learn how to take responsibility for their own work. Most of the faculty are practitioners and integrate their daily profes sional experience into their teaching. In addition to the Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes, ZHdK offers a wide range of preparatory and continuing education courses, as well as a number of doctoral programmes (the latter in close association with various arts universities in Switzerland and abroad).

The hallmark of the research in the arts, design, and art and design education is its unique scientific-artistic approach. It is often interdisciplinary and combines theory and practice, basic and applied research, production and reflection. The research thus promotes innovation within and beyond ZHdK and makes a decisive contribution to the high quality of our teaching and its ongoing development. The research aims to contribute to and help shape the discourses of the international research community, to promote the development of its disciplines and, through its results, to prove effective for society, culture and the economy. Researchers at ZHdK explore a wide range of topics such as the theory of aesthetics; the dimensions of value creation at the interface between culture, business and technology; the simulation of reality; design, which ranges from materials science to development cooperation; interactions between sounds and colours or the use of digital technologies in the arts.


ZHdK has five departments:

The Department of Performing Arts and Film offers professional training in dance, theatre and film. Theatre training includes BA and MA courses in acting, directing, theatre education, dramaturgy, and stage design. The department also offers BA and MA courses in film. The BA Film provides general training or specialised training in production design. MA students can specialise in directing, documentary filmmaking, screenwriting, cinematography, film editing or creative producing. The dance programmes include professional training in classical dance at Zurich Dance Academy as well as a BA Contemporary Dance and an MA Dance. The latter enables students to specialise in choreography or in teaching and coaching dance professionals.

The Design Department offers a wide range of Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes oriented strongly toward the future. Students specialise in one of seven professional fields: Cast/Audiovisual Media, Game Design, Industrial Design, Interaction Design, Knowledge Visualization, Trends & Identity, Visual Communication. Our BA Design conveys the specialist skills and knowledge needed to embark on a professional career in design. The research-driven MA Design expands and deepens individual design expertise.

The Department of Fine Arts offers degree courses in digitality, photography, installation/sculpture, painting, performance, sound, language, and video/movement. BA and MA students experiment with and deepen their personal approach to artistic and theoretical practices, culture and society, and thereby develop their individual authorship. The department promotes theoretical and research-based work, as well as collaborative study and work.

The Department of Cultural Analysis provides teaching and research in cultural theory, cultural analysis, and art education. Its BA and MA courses are aimed at future teachers, cultural journalists, and exhibition makers. Coursework develops the creative, pedagogic, and teaching skills needed to conceptualise and deliver courses for specific target groups as well as the skills needed to translate learnings into practice. The Museum für Gestaltung Zürich and its internationally acclaimed design, graphics, applied art, and poster collections are central to the department’s inter- and transdisciplinary work. This brings together manifold approaches in its teaching (MA Transdisciplinary Studies), research, and public events and makes these various processes accessible within and beyond campus.

The Department of Music offers programmes in the creation, teaching, and interpretation of classical music, jazz, pop, and church music. Two BA and four MA degree courses provide professional training for future orchestra and school musicians, orchestra and choir conductors, soloists and chamber musicians, composers and sound engineers, instrumental and voice teachers, jazz and pop musicians. Students take part in performances at the University’s own concert halls and on a regular basis also at Zurich’s Tonhalle and other public venues.

Notable alumniEdit

ZHdK and its various precursor institutions (School of Applied Art/HGKZ; Music Conservatory; Theatre Academy) have brought forth a considerable number of acclaimed artists, designers, musicians, and actors:

Theatre and filmEdit


Fine artsEdit

Design and typographyEdit


Notable facultyEdit

Many former graduates have returned to teach at ZHdK. Teaching faculty has included and includes a number of well-known people:

  • Sophie Taeuber-Arp, head of the textile class, 1916–1929
  • Johannes Itten, director, 1938–1943
  • Volkmar Andreae, head of the Tonhalle Orchestra (1906–1949) and the Conservatory of Music (1914–1939)
  • Serge Stauffer co-directed the F+F class for experimental art from 1965 to 1970
  • Florian Dombois has been head of the research focus in transdisciplinary studies since autumn 2011
  • Irwin Gage ran a class for Lied interpretation
  • Ria Ginster, soprano, from 1938 until she had to emigrate
  • Isabel Mundry, Professor of Composition
  • Zakhar Bron has been teaching violin and chamber music
  • Rudolf Koelman, violin and chamber music Professor since 1987(HMT-ZHdK) former concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (1996-1999)
  • Raphael Wallfisch has been teaching cello and chamber music
  • Konstantin Scherbakov is Professor of Piano
  • Giaco Schiesser, Professor for media and culture theories, founded the New Media / Media Arts programme (1997) and was Head of the Departement of Art & Media (2002-2017)

Further readingEdit

  • Dominique Spirgi, Christine Wyss (2005). "Theaterhochschule Zürich, Zürich ZH". In Andreas Kotte (ed.). Theaterlexikon der Schweiz (TLS) / Dictionnaire du théâtre en Suisse (DTS) / Dizionario Teatrale Svizzero / Lexicon da teater svizzer [Theater Dictionary of Switzerland] (in German). 3. Zürich: Chronos. pp. 1871–1873. ISBN 978-3-0340-0715-3. LCCN 2007423414. OCLC 62309181.


  1. ^ "Jahresbericht Zürcher Hochschule der Künste – 2011". epaper.zhdk.ch.
  2. ^ "Jahresbericht Zürcher Hochschule der Künste – 2011". epaper.zhdk.ch.
  3. ^ "Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK)". cumulusassociation.org. Archived from the original on 2014-12-09. Retrieved 2014-04-04.
  4. ^ "Departement Design & Art Education Zurich University of the Arts". cumulusassociation.org. Archived from the original on 2014-12-09. Retrieved 2014-04-04.
  5. ^ "Zürcher Hochschule der Künste". eenc.info.
  6. ^ "Zurich University of the Arts Universities Handbook". universitieshandbook.com. Archived from the original on May 1, 2013.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 47°22′58″N 8°32′08″E / 47.38278°N 8.53556°E / 47.38278; 8.53556