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
Soil, Water, Labour

What is the future of the manifold landscapes and territories across the world which support contemporary cities, such as Zurich, with water, food, human labour and other resources? How is human and non-human life in these environments affected by cities and by urbanisation? In our discipline, discussions on sustainability have remained focused on buildings and on cities, while these extended territories are equally exposed to rapid and far-reaching transformations with massive social and environmental implications. How can architects respond to these urgent changes? Can architecture become ecological, to go beyond-the-human and beyond-the-built, in order to engage with the environment as a whole?

NEW ECOLOGIES is a new studio series at the Architecture of Territory, dedicated to the practice of architecture for the post-anthropocentric era. Throughout the twentieth century, the anthropocentric and city-centric paradigms have locked architecture into binary thinking, which separated Man from Nature, Building from Landscape, and City and Countryside. Through the perspective of ecology, such unproductive divisions can be rethought to allow architectural discipline to broaden its agenda and take on new themes and approaches.

A crucial theme that has remained in the “blind field” of architecture is agriculture. With nearly half of the total land area on the planet currently dedicated to some form of agricultural production, agricultural landscapes might be the most urgent field of action to address the problematic of “sustainability”. Many types of agricultural practices have been linked to increasing risks for climate change, exhaustion of water and natural resources, depletion of soil fertility, as well as disadvantaging local population, and affecting quality of life. An awareness of the consequences of industrialisation of agriculture, including its addiction to fertilisers, pesticides and fossil fuels, has been growing. These issues stand at the core of the climate and biodiversity crises, and they call for new approaches in architecture too.

In this semester we will look at Zurich and its region beyond-the-built, concentrating on agriculture. The largest in Switzerland, the Metro Zurich is composed of the relatively compact city of Zurich and the densely built-up valleys extending along the Glattal and the Limmattal. The urban fabric extends further into vulnerable agricultural areas or the “quiet zones” of the Swiss Plateau and the Prealps, and further into “alpine fallow lands.” Despite its high metropolitan density, agricultural lands still dominate the region of Zurich: in the Canton of Zurich 41.9% of the total surface is dedicated to agriculture. Whereas in the vicinity of the City of Zurich the land is under extreme urban pressure and at risk of being built up, other more peripheral landscapes, such as the Zürcher Oberland, are confronted with a decrease in population and the loss of social and economic resources.

Architecture and agriculture in the region of Zurich will be thought together through three highly interconnected ecologies: soil, water and labour. A close look at these ecologies in the territory will take us from agriculture research facilities and experimental permaculture farms, to food distribution networks and spaces, sites of industrial animal farming, constructed water landscapes and facilities, and all the way to the seasonal migrant worker groups that support agriculture of Zurich. Above these issues hovers the urgent need for a radical overhaul of agricultural practices. Recently, across the public landscape of Zurich, environmental movements—Fridays for Future, Climate Strike, Extinction Rebellion, and other solidary pioneer groups and cooperatives — have gained momentum. These movements have helped raise awareness and promote pioneering practices and projects such as mixed farming, agroforestry or “bee highways”, that will change the landscape of Zurich in the future. During the semester we will engage with Zurich’s land pioneer culture. Through intensive field explorations we will get to know the protagonists and learn from them. The result will be an online collection of investigative reportages, meant to inform the ecological design practices in architecture, and the public of Zurich.

The semester consists of investigative journeys in the field and studio sessions. Architecture of Territory values intellectual curiosity, commitment and team spirit. We are looking for avid travellers and team workers, motivated to make strong and independent contributions. Our approach enables students to work with a range of methods and sources pertaining to territory, including ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, reading exercises, large-scale drawing techniques, photography, video, model making, and publishing work in print and online. Several sessions will be dedicated to the tools: drawing software, GIS, photography, video editing, online CMS, and more. We will welcome guest experts and craft common agendas through debates. Students work in groups of two to three.

The studio series NEW ECOLOGIES is affiliated with Agriurbanisms research program at the Future Cities Laboratory in Zurich, due to commence in the fall of 2020. Cantonal and academic partners, experts, citizens and fellow designers will work with us in the process.

TRAVEL (Integrated Seminar Week)
Investigative journeys constitute the core of the project. On the first studio day, we will start our explorations by symbolically turning our backs to the city and venturing into agrarian landscape, which starts in the backyard of the ONA. Investigations will continue during the seminar week dedicated to experimental and pioneering agriculture. We will explore the field–by foot, by bike, by bus or by train–followed by individual days of investigation on the research topics and sites in the respective student teams. The seminar week will take place in the interval October 17–25, and it is integrated and mandatory. The cost frame is A.

The semester project offers the total of 19 credit points: The Design Studio with Integrated Discipline (Planning) 14+3 KP and the Seminar Week 2 KP.

1. Arnold Odermatt, “Eine Strassenunterführung fürs Vieh”, 1964.
2. Poster for the initiative “Agrarlobby stoppen”, Bern, 2020.
3. Andri Pol, from the series Grüezi, 2007.

Core Course
This lecture series sets up an agenda for widening the disciplinary field of architecture and urbanism from their focus on the city, or the urban in the narrow sense, to wider territorial scales, which correspond to the increasing scales of contemporary urbanization. It discusses the concepts of territory and urbanisation, and their implications for the work of architects and urbanists.

Five Guest Speakers

Within the program, the five guest speakers are invited to open up perspectives on territory as Earth and the manifold meanings it embodies: Earth as a living world, a world-system, earth as soil, as land, as field, and even as dirt. By looking at the Earth and its ecologies, the guest speakers will propose novel and urgent approaches to territory and urbanisation: from “Gaia-graphy” of Earth’s critical zones, and emergence of urban soil mapping as tool in urban design, to working with “dirt” in order to develop an ethics of care and maintenance for precarious environments.

17. 09. 2020
On Territory
Access to recording

24. 09. 2020
Architecture and Urbanisation
Access to recording

01. 10. 2020
Critical Zones: Sensors for Ghost Landscapes
Guest lecture by ALEXANDRA ARÈNES
Access to recording

08. 10. 2020
Methods in Territorial Research and Design
Access to recording

15. 10. 2020
Urban Soils Mapping: Case West Lausanne
Guest lecture by ANTOINE VIALLE
Access to recording

29. 10. 2020
Linking Soils Across the Urban-Rural Nexus
Guest lecture by JOHAN SIX
Access to recording

05. 11. 2020
Planetary Urbanisation: Hinterland
Access to recording: 01
Access to recording: 02

12. 11. 2020
Arable Lands Lost Lands
Access to recording

19. 11. 2020
Disappearance of the Countryside

26. 11. 2020
Dirty Theory: Dirt and Decolonisation
Guest lecture by HÉLÈNE FRICHOT
Access to recording

03. 12. 2020
Our Common Territories: An Outlook

The course will enable students to critically discuss concepts of territory and urbanisation. It will invite students to revisit the history of architects’ work engaging with the problematic of urbanising territories and territorial organisation. The goal is to motivate and equip students to engage with territory in the present day and age, by setting out our contemporary urban agenda.

The lectures are animated by a series of visual and conceptual exercises, usually on A4 sheets of paper. All original student contributions will be collected and bound together, creating a unique book-object. Some of the exercises are graded and count as proof of completion.
Download Basic Readings

Prof. Milica Topalovic

Charlotte Malterre Barthes, Metaxia Markaki, Gyler Mydyti, Nazli Tumerdem

Metaxia Markaki,