The city of Geneva has a high office vacancy rate, which is due as much to the obsolescence of the offices as to the relocation of polluting activities from the secondary sector towards peri-urban or even international areas. This high rate of vacancy contrasts with local needs for temporary housing, and more particularly student housing. For this project, we worked in collaboration with La Ciguë Genève whose mandate was to repurpose vacant office buildings into student housing. While for the last 20 years, the city’s doctrine for urban development has been to demolish in order to rebuild more densely, shortage of resources and rising awareness of ordinary heritage compel us to think and act differently. In our case, the aim has been to preserve rather than destroy, and to reuse rather than consume.
The unique feature of this studio was that participants occupied their object of study, i.e. an empty building awaiting demolition at Rue des Maraîchers 5, Geneva, throughout the semester. The participants thus gradually appropriated the building to work and live. Occupying this space enabled them to conduct in depth observations, taking into account dimensions relating to inhabitancy. While the building at Maraîchers 5 turned into a place of life and work with numerous challenges, it has also and most importantly fostered new connections, friendships and ideas between students, urban actors and local residents.