Apartment building, rue de la Coulouvrenière, Geneva
Location Genève, GE
Date 2018

Competition by invitation


Alix Houlon

The Nicolas Bogueret Foundation wishes to construct 10 housing units incorporating an activity space on Rue de la Coulouvrenière in Geneva. The competition brief includes a 4-storey building of approximately 1300 m2, that will also house the Galiffe workshop.

The project proposed here seeks to fit into the urban context by means of a structure aligned and in continuity with the former Croisier chocolate factory. The volume complies perfectly with the dimensions required by the city’s Direction du Patrimoine Bâti(Department for Built Heritage). In this context, whose identity derives from the Rhône’s powerful presence and that of a building classed as exceptional, the decision to build at the tip of the island is of particular importance. The stance taken is one of urban integration combined with references to the industrial aesthetics of the district, as expressed in the new building’s volumes and architectural character.

What’s more, the Galiffe workshop’s garden in front of the building plays a key role in the ground plan, in between the project’s public and private levels. It occupies what would be the bow space of a ship. Its void creates a concavity at the front end of the building, which overlooks and subtly encloses it.

Urban continuity does not imply mimicry and nostalgia. The proposal made here is to include and assimilate elements from the location in order to construct a unique and site-specific project. What has been taken from the former Croisier chocolate factory is its spirit of simplicity, rationality and repetition. Construction and architectural character are closely linked: in this case, the building’s supporting structure is its facade. No enveloping, no double walls, but instead an "old-fashioned" construction with a loadbearing external structure and internal insulation with stainless steel dowels and slab edge insulation to prevent thermal bridges. Simple, sober, efficient. The former chocolate factory’s influence is also reflected in the new building’s asymmetrical plan. The stairwell is on the exterior. It is the project’s backbone, a real "vertical street" with landings that act as squares where people can stop to talk. The roof forms a terrace, creating a meeting space with a magnificent view of the Rhône for the building’s inhabitants.