Geneva, Fall 2022-2023

The city of Geneva has a high office vacancy rate. This 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 past 20 years, the city’s urban development doctrine has favored demolition for rebuilding with increased density, a shortage of resources and a growing awareness of ordinary heritage compel us to rethink and take a different approach. In our case, the aim has been to preserve rather than destroy, and to reuse rather than consume.

The singular feature of this studio was that students occupied and modified their object of enquiry—an empty building awaiting demolition at Rue des Maraîchers 5, Geneva—throughout the semester. The students thus gradually appropriated the building to work and live. Inhabiting 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.


Studio Critic: Line Fontana; Teaching Assistant: Kimberley Berney


Emma Birbaud, Thomas Dreux, Samia Hilal, Vilma Hubalek, Camila Perna, Sandy Pitelli , Anaïs Youssefi

© HEAD-Genève