The project to reconvert and extend Société Privée de Gérance's headquarters in Geneva was chosen after a multi-stage competition extending across 2010 and 2011 that included on-site testing of the prototypes submitted by competition entrants. The winning design focused on the quality of the work environment and the structure of the façades. The work included adding two new levels to the building and creating a new architectural envelope that is the true highlight of the complex. The effective, constant control of interior lighting levels, with suitable protection from the sun's rays, is one of the key elements when ensuring quality in work spaces. On the flip side, the quality of internal spaces is also tied to the visual permeability, especially achieving uniformity across the edifice. Such requirements might seem conflicting, but they are central to the architectural identity of the design for this building in an eclectic urban setting with other buildings, plants and main roads.
The elevations are characterized by the layered envelope, with the interior layer being triple glazed with the addition of a further air chamber containing a space for the micro-perforated Venetian blinds that control the amount of light coming in. On the exterior, glass panels are placed perpendicularly to the façade, attached to aluminium brackets. The addition of light sources to these panels creates luminescent effects at night that transform the building into a curtain of light. These glass panels, with screen printing, also act as sunshades and are grouped at variable intervals according to the need to filter the light reaching the interior.
The design explores the material "texture" of the façade, introducing multiple variations. The luminous vibrations interact with the screen-printed glazing, softening the appearance of the volume and making it "fuzzy", such that the outline almost seems to lose its material density and become "soft focus". At the same time, this changing light influences the appearance of the interior, spreading across the stone floors, the offices and meeting rooms that run along the edge of the building, enjoying views of the exterior that are mediated, not negated, by the façades.
The design is ultimately about experimentation along three conceptual axes: magnify the sense of time through variations that produce changes in the perception of the building; identifying the dynamic, perceptive flow of the façades; exploring architecture that is both material and physical, yet also changing, translucent and fluid.
Location: Geneve, Switzerland
Client: SPG - Asset Development
Architects: Giovanni Vaccarini architects - SINCRETICA architecture
Works Management: Thierry Barbier-Muller
Façade: Stahlbau Pichler
Photography: © Adrien Buchet, Federal Studio
Video: Short-film “Deep into the Surface”, produced by: The Piranesi Experience, directed by: Claudio Esposito, photography: Fabio Paolucci, original soundtrack: Populous, Italia, 2016
Giovanni Vaccarini Archictects_Sincretica
Giovanni Vaccarini was born in 1966. He graduated with honors in 1993 from G. D’Annunzio University in Pescara.
In 1994 he earned a post-graduate degree in landscape architecture at Waterloo University’s Department of Environmental Studies, School of Architecture, in Ontario. He holds a PhD in architectural composition.
Between 1995 and 2001, he taught and conducted research at the Faculty of Architecture of G. D’Annunzio University, Pescara. He is currently visiting professor at the Faculty of Italian Architecture and Engineering.
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