Extension to the Unithèque building, Dorigny
Location Dorigny, Switzerland
Date 2015

Competition – 4th prize

Gross floor area 31'400 m²

Grégoire Martin
Gabriela Pratas
Jules Chabey
Donika Alidemi
Celia Laserna

The extension project for the cantonal library in Dorigny is characterized by being strongly rooted in the landscape. Its arched form harmonizes, on the one hand, with Lake Geneva and, on the other, with that of the existing Unithèque building. Land, landscape and geometry are closely connected and constitute the basis for the new extension project. The arched form is developed on different scales and thus becomes the distinguishing unitary element.

The approach is clearly "musical accompaniment" rather than an attempt at a solo performance seeking to differentiate itself at all costs from the existing building by Guido Cocchi. The extension project therefore adopts the Unithèque’s radial structural framework. It is constructed to the rear of the site as a prolongation of the library. The main drawback of this positioning is the immediate loss of natural light along the current building’s longest side. The solution adopted here is to create large, arch-shaped patios along the latter’s rear facade. This brings in enough natural light to the centre of the project while providing five connection points between the old and new buildings. 

Rethinking the Unithèque’s entrance sequence is one of the project’s principal concerns, given that the current one is indeed unworthy of the importance of a cantonal university library. The present proposal eliminates the external staircases leading up from the ground floor, together with the intervening balcony. The new entrance is located on the ground floor, giving users direct access to the entrance hall housing the large, circular main staircase. From there, it is possible to go either towards the restaurants or to take the main staircase leading directly to the library. 

The structure is a constituent element of the project in two ways: as infrastructure, since the archives are stored in the building’s basement, and as superstructure, because it accommodates the reception, library and office spaces above ground level. The structure not only carries out its fundamental load-bearing role, but also has a powerful spatial and identity function, visible in all the spaces within the extension. As in legendary libraries, such as those designed by Labrouste, the latter becomes one of the building’s iconic features. The proposed space will be calm and serene, with soothing concrete arches set into an extremely precise framework.