Photo: Michael Lio / Exhibition poster, graphic design: Alexandra Noth
Please feel free to touch! From glass, metal, wood, paper, plastic and stone to ceramics, colour pigments, textiles and leather – the permanent MATERIAL LAB exhibition is an interactive laboratory for studying materials. It is like a vast, three-dimensional textbook with an online database, some 1,000 specimen materials, experiment tables, video and audio stations and a library, all offering an in-depth yet enjoyable way of finding out about the world of materials. The MATERIAL LAB is thus a fun learning opportunity, as well as a place where interested members of the public, specialists and students of all ages can carry out research and make discoveries.

Photos: Michael Lio

Research and discovery for everyone – from children to experts


The Gewerbemuseum Winterthur’s permanent MATERIAL LAB, which was set up in 2009, is an exhibition, working area and research laboratory all at the same time. Its numerous specimen materials can be handled, compared and linked with the extensive information held in the database. Meanwhile, the display collection complements and illustrates all this knowledge about materials in an entertaining, clear way. The information is presented at various levels of depth and complexity, so that everyone – from children to experts – will find something to interest them.

Educational facility and workshop area

Around ten themed workshops for school pupils at all levels make the MATERIAL LAB into an Aladdin’s Cave for inquisitive children and young people. Our educational resources for schools are constantly being expanded and enhanced. In addition to the workshops, a number of different workbooks and study sheets are currently available for students of all ages, as well as tips and instructions for teachers wishing to bring their classes on informal visits.

Interdisciplinary network

The MATERIAL ARCHIV online database is an extended digital reference work on materials which is managed and regularly updated by several prestigious Swiss educational institutions in the fields of design, architecture and art. This database can be accessed online, but it is also linked by scanners to every single specimen material in the exhibition rooms of the Gewerbemuseum Winterthur. The link-up between the database and the specimen collection allows significant knowledge of materials to be generated, enabling the Gewerbemuseum Winterthur to provide students and visitors with deep and wide-ranging insights into the world of materials.

The MATERIAL ARCHIV online database

MATERIAL ARCHIV is cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary. The following institutions currently support the network:


S1 Collection 1: Winterthur Museum of Applied Arts and Design
S2 Collection 2: Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts - School of Engineering and Architecture
S3 Collection 3: Sitterwerk Art and Production
S4 Collection 4: Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK)
S5 Collection 5: Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts - School of Art and Design
S6 Collection 6: Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich
S7 Collection 7: Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), Winterthur
S8 Collection 8: Bern University of the Arts (HKB)
S9 Collection 9: Schweizer Baumuster-Centrale Zürich (SBCZ)
S10 Collection 10: Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design Halle, DE
S11 Collection 11: FHNW School of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geomatics