Multidisciplinary and cross-cultural collaboration are emerging key competences of tomorrow's professionals. The learning and teaching platform elop offers the possibility to acquire such experiences in the framework of a graduate program. At the core of the program, constructed around an innovation-based trans-disciplinary design process, is the development of real projects with actual clients. Students of different disciplines from the elop alliance, an international network of universities, work together using advanced information and collaboration technologies and methods.

The elop*8 Project Fall 2015 goes to Querétaro Mexico
The transdisciplinary and transcultural project Platform elop* announces the 8th Project called Fringe Conditions – Querétaro Mexico
The Project is a co-organization with Tecnologico de Monterrey, Campus Querétaro and takes place in collaboration with the elop*alliance partner universities. For further information about the program, please see the brochure elop8. Register now, the number of participants is limited!

elop*7 Project Fall 2014 - Alpine Mutations - Focus Finhaut
The Project is a co-organization with the department of Landscape Architecture from hepia Genève and takes place in collaboration with the elop*alliance partner universities. The project deals with sustainable development in alpine areas and sets its focus on the region Finhaut in the area of Espace Mont Blanc.

swissnex San Francisco News
After the final review of the elop*6 project at Palo Alto City Council on January 23rd, Kathrin Merz and Key Kawamura, leaders of elop* were invited to an expert lunch by swissnex San Francisco along with other design experts to discuss transdisciplinary tools and methods for creatively putting academic skills into practice. The distinguished experts included among others, Raveevarn Choksombatcha, Associate Professor in Architecture, UC Berkeley and Mike Martin, Professor and Chair, Architecture Department of the College of Environmental Design and Yael Perez PhD. UC Berkeley Department of Architecture, Community Assessment of Renewable Energy and Sustainability (CARES), UC Berkeley.

Read more about Transforming Education by swissnex

elop receives Credit Suisse Award for Best Teaching
Kathrin Merz and Key Portilla Kawamura receive the Credit Suisse Award for Best Teaching for the project «elop* - environment-focused learning and operative platform». The project was awarded due to the project’s outstanding didactical and innovative teach-learn-scenario.
More information: Link (in German)

The elop*6 Project at Stanford University, USA!
The Project elop*6 Crossroads / Crossfunctions - Standford / Palo Alto organized by Prof. John Barton from Stanford University USA takes place in Fall 2013, in collaboration with the elop*alliance partner universities.

elop*Summerschool Berlin Music Week
The Project entitled "Klangkörper/Klangraum" is a collaboration between the Hochschule der Populären Künste Berlin and the Wood Engineers and Architects from Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH. It was initiated by Prof. Erich Deschwanden from Bern University of Applied Sciences and will take place in August and September 2013, with a final installation shown at the Berlin Music Week 2013.

Visit the blog of the Summerschool Berlin Music Week.

elop*local Project in Cologne
The elop*alliance partners from Cologne University of Applied Sciences have launched a local elop*project at their own institution during Spring semester 2013. Students from Architecture, Applied Social Sciences and Engineering Department are working together on a multigenerational housing project in Cologne, Germany.

elope becomes elop
The rebranding of the platform parallels a series of organisational changes and the progression of the project as well as the alliance towards an established academic structure with an operational office and the prospect of professional services-provision in the near future.

elop* (education)

9 reasons for elop*

  1. elop* is an innovative learning and teaching platform that develops transdisciplinary solution-finding methods.
  2. elop* promotes transcultural experiences by bringing together cultures, nationalities, and learning styles in a collaboration as equal partners with shared goals.
  3. elop* promotes ‚thinking out of the box‘ to involve a rich repertoire of approaches that strive for novel ideas and stimulate creativity.
  4. elop* fosters the integration of various viewpoints and backgrounds from a multidisciplinary community of students, teachers, stakeholders and experts. 
  5. elop* tackles complex tasks in the realm of the built and social environment and addresses relevant real world problematics.
  6. elop* offers a blended learning experience combining both physical and virtual collaborative modalities.
  7. elop* is process oriented and aims for a synchronous and iterative design process as opposed to a sequential one.
  8. elop* forms an international knowledge alliance sustained by a rich and diversified collective intelligence. 
  9. elop* alumni are better prepared for future challenges in a globalised professional world thanks to the soft skills they acquire in the programme.


Nowadays, students are increasingly challenged within their specific core disciplines; in addition however, they are also supposed to develop skills in order to apply this particular knowledge in practice. This ideally goes hand in hand with a sense of maturity of the individuals’ characters vis-à-vis the social, cultural, and economical environment. The practical application of theoretical knowledge can thus only be implemented successfully, if these three basic elements are taken into account. The curricula for studies in Architecture and Architectural Process Management are fundamentally based on this comprehension and form the academic backbone of all elop* academic projects.

In addition to students’ disciplinary knowledge, the ability to work efficiently within multicultural environments has become increasingly important. elop* sees itself as a learning system cooperating in a network of international universities and industry partners. It does so within a reflexive context, taking into account the various cultures involved in order to create new methods of resolution regarding teaching and learning. Students of the Master level are at the core of this concept and are given the opportunity to develop process-oriented expert knowledge through interdisciplinary, transcultural teamwork as well as the use of information and communication tools.

Furthermore, elop* respects the paradigm shift from supply-pushed to demand-pulled learning, i.e. to replace the swatting of facts by process knowledge. A further characteristic of today‘s challenges is an increasing tendency for the overlapping, or even amalgamation, of various lines of work in order to give way to new, holistic, and transdisciplinary perspectives.

elop* is not only about to significantly remold the landscape of teaching and learning at universities, it also intends to yield substantial influence concerning decision-making and the creation of practical work processes. In association with university teaching staff, the mentors are instrumental in contributing expert knowledge and regular feedbacks to the teams, and at the same time they are also actively involved in the evaluation of processes and related products. The latter will be of increasing importance in the future, as scientific research has been initiated in connection with the integration of certain PBL (Problem- Based Learning) methods. It is the intention of this kind of research to support students with regard to the awareness of their personal learning styles.

Pedagogic Model
The students are at the center of elop*‘s working model. They build multidisciplinary teams with one (or two) student(s) coming from each profession. Since they originate from different universities around the world, they bring together different methodologies to tackle a task and have access to an attractive set of faculty coaches. After the kick-off weeks, the students work in non-collocated, distributed, interdisciplinary teams – each team member administrates his/her disciplinary contribution but also assuming responsibilities for the entire process and final product as. The participating universities and industry partners send coaches and mentors to steer the development process.

Experts and mentors from the industry who are not part of the university are an additional and essential part of elop* courses. Their participation contributes a high degree of practical knowledge to the projects, pointing out the actual „state of the art“. In this manner, elop* manages to link academic education and professional practice. The intensive interaction between these two elements guarantees a rapid transfer of technology, while at the same time ensuring that the students involved are highly motivated.

Current Project

Project Fall 2015
elop*8 Fringe Conditions

Querétaro (short for Santiago de Querétaro), in Mexico, is one of the fastest growing cities in Latin America. It has a historical downtown considered a “World Heritage City” by UNESCO. However, even tough the historical site is the hub of the social, governmental and commercial activities, there still is a lack of green public spaces, pedestrian accessibility, alternative modes of mobility, social cohesion and the application of energy efficiency in buildings.
The historical center area has received notorious attention from tourists. Consequently local authorities have enforced rigid construction codes eluding new architectural typologies and urban densities. A few critics have raised concerns for the “disneyfication” or false identity of this area. Others have manifested their preoccupation for the excessive creation of cafes, hotels and restaurants making the downtown area an exclusive location causing gentrification, while the surrounding neighborhood have little attention and funding. The UNESCO-protected downtown is not the only area touched by controversy in Querétaro. Furthermore, some of the neighborhoods in the fringes of the downtown area, like the one known as “La otra banda” (literally translated as “the others”), suffer different challenges such as:

  • Urban detachment from the UNESCO-protected area: a ravine crosses through the city, and the under utilised train tracks separate different areas.
  • Public infrastructure is deprived: there is a public market, a park, and a cultural center that urgently need renovation.
  • Local population, tourists, and economical funding disregard the area.


Situation and Task
In recent years population has grow at a staggering rate due immigration attracted by the economic bonanza of Querétaro. This phenomenon pushes the city to expand further, rather than consider the renovation and democratic redensification of its downtown area. The objective is to rejuvenate a specific area within Downtown (4.45 km2), just outside the UNESCO site in order to link the different neighborhoods. The idea is to propose a holistic approach that considerers the social, environmental, urban and landscape conditions that rejuvenates the existing location. If this Revitalization happens it could benefit in several ways:

  • It could ease the constant pressure to the UNESCO site, by having more activities outside the historical center
  • Promote a more sustainable city
  • It could become a model of density instead of expansion
  • Link several parks and green spaces that are not connected
  • Promote more pedestrian streets
  • Promote a more equitable city

elop*8 Brochure

elop* lead
Over the past years, elop* (formerly elope) the learning and teaching platform for transdisciplinary and cross-cultural collaboration has become a focus in our Joint Master of Architecture program in Burgdorf. The elope idea was initiated by Peter Bölsterli and Christoph Holliger and has profited from their vision, enthusiasm and engaged leadership. With four successful elope editions, the project has evolved and with it an international network of renowned Universities has been established.

Peter Bölsterli and Christoph Holliger are now pursuing new challenges and handed over the lead to a new team. This consists of Kathrin Merz and Key Kawamura with his Partner Ali Ganjavian from studio-kg. Kathrin is part of the original elope founding team. Key, an internationally networked architect based in Lausanne is co-founder of the multi-disciplinary creative platform Studio Banana.


Kathrin Merz
Dipl. Architect ETH / SIA
Reasearch Associate
Key Portilla Kawamura
Architect BSc Hons, AA Dip, REG, SIA
Research Associate
Guy Lafranchi
Dipl. Architect ETH
elop coaching for Joint Master of Architecture Students
 Dino Zizzari
elop technical support


The elop crew is supported by experts from different disciplines out of Bern University of Applied Sciences; in particular from the Department of Architecture, Wood and Civil Engineering: Erich Deschwanden, Fritz Häubi, Urs Heimberg, Joachim Huber, Charles Job, Franziska Nyffenegger, Markus Romani, Christophe Sigrist, Martin Stolz, Stanislas Zimmermann.
Wirtschaft, Gesundheit und Soziales: Jan Zychlinski
Hochschule der Künste Bern: Jürg Neuenschwander
Eidgenössische Hochschule für Sport Magglingen: Urs Mäder

elop is built on the foundations of a network of partner universities, organized in the form of an alliance that is hosted at and coordinated by the Bern University of Applied Sciences. elop*edu projects are acquired and co-organized by the elop*alliance Partners on a yearly rotational basis.
elop*edu projects are always based on real world problems and has a focus on tasks that accrue from actual topics coming from industry and/or administration stakeholders. As regards the network, further partner universities and specific disciplines can be involved in an elop*edu project.

elop*alliance Partners

Bangor University, United Kingdom
Dr. Andrew Goodman | Design Innovation, Pontio
Prof. Dr. John Parkinson | Psychology

Bauhaus University Weimar, Germany
Prof. Dr. Hans-Joachim Bargstädt | Construction Engineering & Management
Markus Steiner | Construction Engineering & Management

Bern University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland
Guy Lafranchi | Architecture
Karin Zbinden | Agronomy, Forestry, Food Sciences
Jan Zychlinski | Social Work

Cologne University of Applied Sciences, Germany 
Prof. Dr. René Cousin | Building Technologies 
Prof. Dr. Herbert Schubert | Applied Social Sciences
Katharina Pucher | Applied Social Sciences

Haute Ecole Specialisée - Sud-Ouest Haute Ecole de Paysage, d’Ingénierie et de Paysage
Nathalie Mongé | Landscape Architecture

Polytech’Marseille, France
Jérôme Giordano | Civil Engineering 

Politechnico di Milano, Italy
Prof. Fabrizio Leoni | Architecture

Stanford University, Palo Alto California, USA
Prof. John Barton | Civil & Environmental Engineering

Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Querétaro, Mexico 
Rodrigo Pantoja Calderon | Architecture  

Further partner universities
Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, CH
European Graduate School (EGS) Leuk CH
Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz, CH
Fudan University Shanghai, CN
Tecnologico de Monterrey, Campus Guadalajara, MX
Tongji University Shanghai, CN
University of the Arts, London UK
Ecole Polytechnique Féderale de Lausanne
Polytech'Marseille, France

Industry Partners
Cemex, Research Institut Biel, CH
Itten Brechtbühl, CH 
Ludic Group London UK
Studio Banana, Madrid / Lausanne, E/CH
TEKTAO Shanghai, CN

Spital Affoltern am Albis, CH
Gemeinde Reinach Baselland, CH
Sportamt Stadt Bern, CH
Stadtbauten Bern, CH
Stadtplanungsamt Bern, CH 
Stadt Köln, D
Bau- und Liegenschaftsbetrieb NRW, D

Technology Support
ICT Services EHT Zürich for Scopia



Bern University of Applied Sciencies 
Architecture, Wood and Civil Engineering 
Pestalozzistrasse 20 
P.O. Box 1058 
CH-3401 Burgdorf 
Phone +41 34 426 41 74 
Fax +41 34 426 43 94 
E-Mail elop.ahb(at)