Zurich University of the Arts

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Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK, Template:Lang-de) has over 2,000 students, which makes it the largest arts university in Switzerland. 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.

ZHdK offers taught Bachelor’s and Master’s degree courses and further education programmes in art, design, music, art education, theatre, film, dance, and transdisciplinary studies. It is also active in research, especially artistic research and design research.

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 School of Art and Design (HGKZ), which had arisen from the municipal School of Applied Arts (founded in 1878), and the School of Music, Drama, and Dance (HMT). 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 School of Art and Design (HGKZ) arose from the municipal School of Applied Arts (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 Research

ZHdK offers taught Bachelor’s and Master’s degree courses, which have replaced the former diploma courses in the wake of the Bologna Process. Places on all degree courses are limited. The university also offers a foundation course in art and design and various further educating courses, leading either to a Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) or a Master of Advanced Studies (MAS).

With research becoming more firmly established at universities of applied sciences, ZHdK has significantly intensified its research activities. Its seven research institutes and two centres of excellence focus on artistic research in particular. Research is also undertaken in the fields of design, art history, art education, and musicology.


ZHdK has five departments:

The Department of Music is the largest department at ZHdK. It provides instrumental and voice training in Classical, Jazz, and Popular Music, as well as programmes in conducting and composition. The department also includes the Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology (ICST) and undertakes specialised research in music interpretation. The department has its own record label, ZHdK Records, through which first-class in-house productions are released. CDs are distributed by Phonag Records.

The Department of Performing Arts and Film offers taught degrees and professional training in theatre (acting, directing, dramaturgy, scenography, theatre education), film, and dance. The department also includes the Institute for Performing Arts and Film (IPF).

The Department of Art & Media offers various taught degrees in the fine arts, with specialisations available in the visual arts, media arts, photography, and theory. The department includes the Institute for Contemporary Art Research (IFCAR) and the Public City Centre of Excellence.

The Department of Cultural Analysis provides training for future drawing teachers, cultural journalists, exhibition-makers, and adult education specialists. The department also offers a Master of Arts in Transdisciplinary Studies and has several affiliated research institutes —Institute for Theory (ith), Institute for Art Education (IAE), and Institute for Cultural Studies in the Arts (ICS). Among others, research focuses on transdisciplinarity.

The Department of Design offers degree courses in product design, industrial design, and visual communication. The department also includes the Institute for Design Research.

Notable Alumni

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:


  • Bruno Ganz
  • Mathias Gnädinger
  • Gardi Hutter
  • Fredi Murer
  • Bettina Oberli
  • Markus Imhoof
  • Laura de Weck
  • Andrea Staka
  • Xavier Koller
  • David Bösch
  • Anna Luif
  • Mathis Künzler
  • Miriam Stein
  • Ueli Jäggi
  • Hanspeter Müller-Drossaart
  • Samuel Schwarz


  • Oliviero Toscani
  • Werner Bischof
  • René Burri
  • Ernst Scheidegger

Fine Arts

  • Augusto Giacometti
  • Urs Fischer
  • Thomas Hirschhorn
  • Yves Netzhammer
  • Christine Streuli
  • David Weiss
  • HR Giger
  • Urs Lüthi
  • Hanny Fries
  • Matthias Zimmermann


  • Max Bill
  • Adrian Frutiger
  • Markus Freitag
  • Alfredo Häberli
  • Richard Paul Lohse
  • Ruedi Baur
  • Hans Falk
  • Max Miedinger
  • Emil Ruder


  • Othmar Schoeck
  • Hermann Haller
  • Anne-Sophie Mutter
  • Nik Bärtsch
  • Klaus Huber
  • Hans Wüthrich

Notable Faculty

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)
  • Hans Finsler, head of the first photography class and teacher of René Burri, Ernst Scheidegger, and Werner Bischof
  • Hansjörg Mattmüller and Serge Stauffer co-directed the F+F class for experimental art from 1965 to 1970
  • Irwin Gage ran a class for Lied interpretation
  • Gerald Bennett, co-founder of the Institute für Computer Music and Sound Technology (ICST) and member of the teaching faculty
  • Markus Imboden, head of the Master of Arts in Film since autumn 2012
  • The artist group Knowbotic Research holds a chair in media arts
  • André Gelpke teaches photography
  • Isabel Mundry, Professor of Composition
  • The Russian pianist Konstantin Scherbakov is Professor of Piano
  • The British cellist Raphael Wallfisch teaches cello and chamber music
  • The Russian violinist Zakhar Bron teaches violin and chamber music
  • Maria Eichhorn teaches on the Master of Arts in Fine Arts (MFA)
  • Florian Dombois has been head of the research focus in transdisciplinary studies since autumn 2011
  • Cultural and literary studies scholar Corina Caduff heads the Z+ Platform
  • German dancer Oliver Matz is head of Zurich Dance Academy (taZ), affiliated to ZHdK
  • Media artist and composer Andres Bosshard teaches at the Department of Art & Media
  • Designer and cultural studies scholar Gerhard M. Buurman founded the course of studies in Interaction Design and heads the Institute for Design Research.

Further reading

  • Dominique Spirgi, Christine Wyss: Theaterhochschule Zürich, Zürich ZH. In: Andreas Kotte (ed.): Theaterlexikon der Schweiz. Vol. 3. Chronos, Zürich 2005, ISBN 3-0340-0715-9, S. 1871–1873

External links