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LAC LÉMAN
A UNIFYING FIGURE
Cyril Dériaz, Robin Gevisier and Vincent Lai Yee Foo
Extending along the coast of Lac Léman and from the lake up to the alpine slopes, the Léman City doesn’t have a single center. The lake is the dominant landscape element, defining an empty space in the middle of the metropolis. Until the early 19th century the strategic value and everyday use of the lake were foregrounded; historic paintings represent lake scenery with fisherman. Houses built along the lake didn’t face the water but rather the landscape behind, and urban quarters close to the lake (like Geneva and Ouchy) weren’t popular. The lake was understood in a more pragmatic manner, as fishing grounds and water source, rather than a picturesque landscape featured with an alpine background.

Representative promenades along the shore were only developed in the early 1830s, with the advent of tourism in the region. The beauty of the lake and its surroundings quickly became famous and attracted a growing amount of international travellers, and tourist facilities introduced new economic potentials in the region. Lac Léman came to be understood as the core element of the metropolitan culture and identity. Today, we can understand Lac Léman not as a void, but as a unifying figure engaging the cities and settlements around it — a mediating element between the natural environment and the metropolis.

Many historic illustrations, such as Plan et panorama des bords du Lac Léman, depict the complex relationship between the lake and the settlements and have helped create its recognizable and desirable image. But how can we represent the contemporary Léman City? Entering a boat to reverse the common view of the metropolitan region, we want to set sails and explore the Léman City as seen from the lake. The view over water will help us create an “elevation“, or a panorama of the metropolitan region. In this reversed perspective, we want to explore the urban panorama as a research and design instrument.