Low-cost apartment building, Petite-Boissière, Geneva
Location Geneva, Switzerland
Date 2011


Gross floor area 6'500 m²

Grégoire Martin
Sarah Delmenico
Ana Sa
May Ackermann
Noémi Gilliand

This north-south orientated project exploits the elongated form of the clearing and develops a direct and strong relationship between the apartments and the tree canopy. You come across the building via its shorter sides, by a diminishing angle, thus creating a highly dynamic approach. The shorter sides are inflected asymmetrically inwards, which exploits and reinforces the dynamic perception of the object. Through this simple deformation, the building is rendered distinctive and interacts more strongly with the context. Subtle surprises in the object’s form are revealed as you walk around it.

Supported by a wall which starts at the plot’s north entrance, the building seems to float above the gentle, natural slope. This wall goes from handrail height where it divides the pedestrian approach from the ramp down to the car park on the north side, to the height of one floor on the south side. It sinks down into the ground to accommodate the building’s common areas and cellars. Its horizontality highlights the slope and progressively raises the building. This subtle relationship between the construction and the natural slope makes it possible to "gain a level" by providing living spaces on an upper ground floor at +1 m, and a lower ground floor accommodating the entrances and common areas at -1 m. By means of a simple fold, a second low wall, the same height as a boundary at both ends of the site and measuring 90 cm maximum, hollows out a path that travels under the building to form the large entrance hall shared by the three stairwells. This path, excavated like a geological fault, runs the length of the hall and ends at the corner of the plot on the Chemin de la Petite-Boissière.

The facade is devised as a large stack. Stacking here is a simultaneously archaic and scholarly, classical and modern, contemporary and timeless constructional act. The extreme rigour of the whole is animated by the subtle profile of its elements. The vertical uprights become increasingly finer and rest on concrete parapets that horizontally dominate the entire building. These horizontal components are inflected inwards to create a ledge, reinforcing the horizontal strata. Their profile is revealed at the corners. The darkish hue makes the building blend in with the colour of the surrounding tree trunks. It renders the building highly distinctive and gives it a certain nobility, evoking the classical architecture of ancient Japanese temples set amongst vegetation