WHO Extension

Geneva, Switzerland, 2014

Against the trend of the contemporary competition scene, with its almost compulsive desire for unique architectural symbols, this call for an extension of the WHO headquarters in Geneva asked for a deliberate understatement, a deliberately submissive response to the existing main building, designed by Jean Tschumi and finished in 1973.

The cruel problem of the annex is its fundamental subservience; typically of inferior scale and compromised aesthetics, it cannot exist on its own, while its predecessor did very well without it.
—Rem Koolhaas

As a self-subsistent building inter pares, the extension ventures to complement and enhance the status quo. Yes, there was the modernist manifestation of the raised block in an “office-unité” in the midst of the Alps’ hyper-natural expanse. But in moving beyond the brutal implant, the proposed extension adds without taking away: The existing garden is laid with a porous carpet, a thick surface which folds up to wrap the old-new ensemble. The modernist superimposition becomes a sub-mission in an almost literal sense. The garden is lifted, and on top of the carpet extends even further than before, linking the existing building with the forest to the south.

And yet the new extension remains without claim to self-adoring fame. Simple in structure and composition, the extension does not deny strict office-functionalism but punctuates monotony with the invaluable assets of the surrounding nature, infiltrating the WHO’s daily routines and often highly secluded, introverted working environment. The outcome moves between pragmatism and excitement in an homage to the contrast between administrative monotony and the potential picturesqueness of a modernist utopia.

 

Geneva, Switzerland, 2014

Type

Office

Status

Competition

Team

Florian Busch, Sachiko Miyazaki, Antoine Vaxelaire, Momoyo Yamawaki, Akira Miyamoto, Suguru Takahashi

Structural Engineering: ARUP

Mechanical Engineering: ARUP

Environmental Engineering: ARUP

Client: World Health Organisation

Size

GFA: 47,500 m²

Structure

Reinforced Concrete, Steel
WHO Extension
WHO Extension
WHO Extension
WHO Extension
WHO Extension
WHO Extension
WHO Extension
WHO Extension

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