Green archipelagos mixed with urbanity – this is the sense of Grand Sacconex. An attractive place, owing to the powerful greenery that spreads across its slopes and plateaus, it is characterised by autonomous buildings that stand astride these green spaces. This dialogue between the two contrasting elements of nature and the built has shaped our fundamental approach. We have strived to generate a living relationship between the site’s natural topography dotted with beautiful trees, and the built forms.

The manner in which the old residences on site sit parallel to its gradient appears to us an appropriate topographical strategy. We have thus chosen to build upon these existing footprints, and allow the adjacent urban park to flow uninterrupted. We have then tried to establish a dialectical relationship here by shaping a positive space for the public. By thinking about the built as a living “poché” of habitable walls, the true protagonist of the project has been enhanced – the shaded enclave of foliage. While maneuvering the built volumes around this existing flora, the heights of the resultant long “walls” – necessary in order to accommodate the programmes – provided an opportunity to intensify this green space further, by helping to define a sense of enclosure for it.

This enclosing built poché releases the landscape towards the corner of the site that faces the Route de Ferney and tram line. In the wider context, this allows the the park to be re-appropriated for the entire community, connecting it to the neighbourhood’s disparate elements. A large plinth with a terrace garden further extends towards the Route de Ferney, working as a transition element between nature and the city. It both holds the park and seamlessly integrates with the park’s topography, reconciling opposites of ending and continuing. The gesture helps connect the northern and southern ends of Grand Sacconex, from the Airport towards the international cantonment.

Through a gap between the built volumes, pedestrians and cyclists can access the park from the higher end of the site as well. The park thus acts as a transition space across which connections are made. All the while, the dense spread of foliage acts as a vertical buffer between the private spaces on the upper floors and the public ground floor.

Acting as topographical solutions to the level differences, this public ground floor is made of plinths that are staggered to negotiate the lay of the land. The towers that extrude from them are as autonomous entities – self referential and multi-programmatic – lending the possibility to be built in isolation. There is a duality between the horizontality of the plinth and the isolated urban elements. The towers have differing heights, creating visual variations in the ensemble.

This helps to relate with the scales of the immediate built fabric around the site. Towards the north, the blocks reduce in scale so as to merge with the heights of the neighbourhood buildings, and the plinth extends into nature to integrate with it. As in the Geneva downtown, a system of arcades forms an urban edge, creating deep shadows in the summer and opening up possibilities for appropriations. Patios intermittently punctuate the plinths, bringing in breathing spaces.

The logic of the “type”, found commonly in Switzerland, is adopted by means of the domino system – a grid that allows for different configurations within it. The blocks are oriented north-east to west for cross ventilation. They are made in recycled concrete that is procured from the demolition waste, through a traditional way of expressing the structure.

The proposal achieves the possibility of a dense development that is inclusive of its surroundings and equally generous in imparting public spaces. It offers comfortable living environments that are integrally connected with the flora around, by enhancing the urban park; and enables better accessibility and relationships with the neighbourhood – creating an important transition space in Grand Saconnex.


architect: Studio MADe  |  team: Madhusudhan Chalasani, Mario Galiana, German Müller, Mario Yañez Aller, Carlos Gonzalvo, Niharika Sanyal  |  client: Carantec Municipality  |  status: Competition (2016)  |  competition: Carantec housing  |  location: Geneva, Switzerland (46.234018, 6.124943)  |  climate: Oceanic / maritime, Temperate  |  materials: concrete, glass  |  environment: Urban  |  visualizer: Studio  |  scale: 45.000 m2 large  |  types: housing, residential  |  views: 3.457

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