Restaging Global Governance in Geneva
“Together, let us assume that the Earth is one small garden.” Gilles Clément, Planetary Garden, 1992.

The crucial infrastructures underpinning the contemporary urban realm are mostly invisible, and it takes a crisis or a breakdown of some sort to bring them into view, observed anthropologist Susan Leigh in her work. She further observed that the role of research and design is to expose and scrutinise these invisible systems in order to ensure their just and equitable use.

These observations resonate well with the recent experience of the Covid-19 pandemic, when institutions of global governance, in particular the World Health Organisation, burst into media spaces around the world. In contrast to their powerful role in the media, the urban presence of the WHO and other international institutions located in the city of Geneva remains relatively marginal. To borrow from Leigh, these institutions remain “invisible” in the city and detached from everyday life.

The image of the “city of peace” and the seat of world governance in Geneva is still highly appealing. Located in the cuvette surrounding Lac Léman between the Jura and the Alps, Geneva has maintained an appearance of a small and well-organised city, a home to efficient apparatus of international institutions and organisations. But in times of crisis of capitalist urbanisation, the ecological crisis, and the rise of nationalist tendencies across Europe and the world, coalescing in the recent events of the pandemic, the institutions including the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, and the International Labour Organisation, all located in Geneva, are struggling to assert their leadership and to retain influence.

The described challenges provoke questions about the character of urban spaces and landscapes of International Geneva. Due to the high level of security sought by international institutions and organisations, much of the area is inaccessible to the public, with many parks and gardens serving as mere backdrop, or a buffer, shielding the complex and untransparent inner workings of organisations. On select public walkways, groups of tourists are usually being guided between the monuments — however, since the start of the pandemic, any public visits have been halted, further underscoring the detached character of the area.

The wider urban ramifications of the growing cluster of Geneva’s international organisations include soaring rents in the inner city, which have pushed many working residents to look for housing in the French periphery. With thousands of employees and hundreds of associated services and activates, International Geneva is one of the key economic protagonist in the city and the region, but its urban role for the city is weakly articulated. As things stand, it appears that the international institutions are hosted by the city of Geneva, but remain largely independent from it.

The notion of the Jardin des Nations links back to the birth of internationalism and institutions of international governance, a process which unfolded throughout the nineteenth century and culminated in Geneva with the competitions for the League of Nations around 1927. A few institutions, including the Red Cross and the International Labour Organisation, had by that time already arrived in this area on the northwest fringes of Geneva, which had become known for large summer estates of Genevian elite, for vineyards and gardens, and for leisure promenade along the lake with Jardin Botanique.

Only in 2005, for the first time, the municipality of Geneva tried to address and reframe the urban character of the international quarter with a concept plan (Plan directeur) entitled Jardin des Nations. The intention of the municipality has been to open many of the closed estates and institutions to the public, linking them into a new framework of public spaces and landscapes accessible to the citizen. However, until today, almost none of these ideas have been realised.
Jardin des Nations diploma invites the student to engage with the urban space of International Geneva, in order to rethink the constitution of urban political spaces, and the urban and architectural representation of institutions of global governance in the 21st century. How does global political cooperation and common decision-making work in times of decentralised societies, media and information technologies? How do globalised political spaces, such as the space of the Covid-19 politics, intersect with the physical space of the city? Should international political institutions engage with the city and its everyday life? How and where can democracy be exercised in public? What kind of values do we want institutions of global governance to represent? How can those values be projected and represented in public space and landscape? Can this site with high security demands become open, public and diverse?

Finally, can the metaphor of the Garden — as in Jardin Planétaire by Gilles Clément — inspire a vision of a space and society, based on the principles and values of diversity, inclusivity, and Nature? Can the Garden metaphor inspire a new design approach to Geneva’s international quarter?

The diploma students were invited to contribute ideas and urban design proposals for international Geneva. Taken together, all students projects have a cumulative value, describing a potential common vision for the area, a complementary project to the municipal Plan directeur Jardin des Nation.

Artai Keller Sanchez
Prof. Alexandre Theriot

Alexander Schmid
Prof. Alexandre Theriot

Luca Meyer
Prof. François Charbonnet & Patrick Heiz

Thierry Vuattoux
Prof. François Charbonnet & Patrick Heiz

Julian Wäckerlin
Prof. Arno Brandlhuber

Manon Mottet
Prof. An Fonteyne

Daniel Zielinski, Parc des Nations
Prof. Emanuel Christ & Christoph Gantenbein

16. September – Input lectures   (Link to the recording)
21. September – Field Trip to Geneva   (07:03 at HB Zurich)
03. December – Hand-in Master Projects

Associate Professor Milica Topalovic
Team: Muriz Djurdjevic, Ferdinand Pappenheim, and Michael Stünzi
A new approach to metropolitan water in the Furt Valley
Androniki Prokopidou, 2020
On the Swiss midland plateau, there are many examples of smaller regions such as the Furt Valley, which are faced with water shortages due to the combined effects of water pollution and climate change: our current extensive agricultural and industrial land use practices that are amplified by the extreme weather events of the changing climate. Hydroscopic ecology as an approach to design resilient territories implies the reform of land use practices in order to protect and regenerate local water resources and restore local ecosystems. At the heart of this approach lies the retention and local infiltration of (rain) water and the shift to less polluting strategies of cultivation and urbanization. Hydroscopic ecology advances the topography, the soil and water conditions as equal design agents alongside the built environment. One of the basic strategies followed is decentralized and holistic natural water management through a cyclical understanding of the water resource: no rain and waste water should be discharged from the area. Rather it will be collected, cleaned and stored in local aquifers where it can be distributed again according to the seasonal needs, all the while retaining enough water for potential extreme weather events.

Hydroscopic ecology proposes the rethinking of the concept of the “Wassergenossenschaft” – historical water supply structure of Switzerland and promotes the sustainable use of local water resources by completing the hydrological cycle and ensuring the water supply of current and future demands of peripheral urban areas, taking into account their significance for food production as well as their potential for population growth.

The hydroscopic approach in the Furt Valley aims at cleaning and recharging the currently heavily polluted upper aquifer by changing the land use practices and establishing a new stewardship towards local water resources. During this process – which could last up to five to ten years – a series of secondary closed-loop water cycles will increase the self-sufficiency of the Furt Valley in terms of its water supply.

This master thesis approaches hydroscopic ecology through a series of elementary concepts presented in five case studies across a section of the Furt Valley. The design concepts are based on the available geological information and typical water movement patterns.

We would like to thank Prof. Ursprung, Dr. Jiménez-Martínez, Prof. Oehen and Tim Klauser for sharing their knowledge and supporting this interdisciplinary work.

Androniki Prokopidou

Milica Topalovic
Professorship of Architecture and Territorial Planning, ETH D-ARCH

Philip Ursprung
Chair of the History of Art and Architecture, ETH D-ARCH
assisted by Tim Klauser

Ferdinand Pappenheim, Karoline Kostka

Joaquín Jiménez-Martínez,
Research Scientist and Group Leader at EAWAG. Lecturer and Research Associate at ETH D-BAUG

Bernadette Oehen, Dipl. Botanist, MAS ETH
Department of Socio-Economic Sciences
Group lead Consumers and Food, FiBL
Towards Singapore-Johor-Riau as a Trinational Metropolis
Magnus Nickl and Verena Stecher, 2014
The Singapore Strait can be seen as an extraordinary urban space, an example par excellence of the phenomenon of urbanisation of the sea. At any moment in time, there are over 1,000 ships within the port limits of Singapore. Shipping fairways, anchorage zones, port terminals, petrochemical installations and security networks occupy the sea surface, coastal zone and submarine space, resulting in a densely used and highly regulated urbanism of global shipping: the territory of the “global sea.” This urbanisation process exerts pressure on the remaining pockets of the “local sea” in the region, the natural coastline, the traditional settlement, and the marine ecosystems.
Today, the maritime territories surrounding Singapore are defined by a hierarchy of borders, separating the city from the Riau Archipelago and Johor, and vice versa. The highly utilized and secured national waters can be seen as part of an extended border zone which stretches from the sea onto the land. In the urban form of Singapore, the major urban public spaces have retreated inland, and public access to the coastline and the sea is still very limited. This paradox constitutes a major opportunity for rethinking Singapore’s future relationship to the sea.
Through a series of maps and plans of the sea, the master thesis Sealand presents an unconventional portrait of the Singapore Strait as an urban territory.
Urbanization of Singapore's Hinterland
Myriam Perret, 2012
Batam Island in Indonesian Riau Archipelago is known as an industrial city on the border, growing rapidly in the shadow of Singapore’s development as global hub. Its urbanism is largely based on Singaporean investments into industrial parks for electronic manufacturing and labor supply from various parts of Indonesia. The project proposes strategies for planning urban growth in these extraordinary conditions.