Designing for the Workplace: UNO/WHO Headquarters Extension Competition

by Stanley Collyer

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Winning entry by Berrel Berrel Kräutler AG (image courtesy BBK)

For all its perceived shortcomings, the United Nations Organization (UNO) can make a good case for its approach to the design of its facilities located in Geneva, Switzerland. Leading up to the most recent competition for the Headquarters Extension of the WHO offices, it staged three successful competitions: • For the 1966 World Health Organization (WHO) Headquarters building, won by Swiss architect, Jean Tschumi; • For the 2000 World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) building, won by the German firm, Behnisch Architekten; • For the 2006 WHO/UNAIDS building, won by the Austrian firm, Baumschlager & Eberle As the principal anchor of the WHO headquarters complex, the 1966 building, now over a half century old, has not only seen the deterioration of its basic mechanical systems and programmatic changes, but has not kept pace with the needs generated by the world’s health crisis. This necessitated the on-site construction of seven temporary or precast structures, none of which were the result of any architectural guidelines or urban planning and did not conform to present code standards. Studies undertaken by the client indicated that future requirements of the organization would be best served by eliminating the seven temporary/precast structures and undertaking the construction of a brand new building to facilitate the incorporation of the various programs in closer proximity, while completely retrofitting the 1966 structure. According to the study, “the analysis showed that it would be possible to reduce the energy consumption of the HQ site in Geneva of 8.25 Kwh/year to potentially 3.37 Kwh/year by investing more in high quality long-term energy efficient solutions, which would consequently result in potentially important cost savings in the HQ operating budget over the next 40-year lifecycle.” The competition brief outlined seven requirements, which had to be included in the design of the new building: • The new building is to accommodate a minimum of 770 work places (administration, office spaces); • Reception, exhibition and entertaining spaces; • Conference space (with a capacity for 500 to 600 people, divisible into four rooms, which could be used simultaneously); • “SHOC room” area • Underground garage with 500-700 parking spaces • Archives and technical services The success of this concept was dependent on phasing, which foresaw more of the programs moved to the present Main Building during demolition and construction of the new building. With the completion of the new building, programs could be moved into that structure, while the Main Building was undergoing renovation. The Competition The design competition for the new building was run according to Swiss competition rules, with anonymity being maintained during both the first and second stages. An international jury was impaneled, and the jury had to sign off on the competition brief before the competition launch. According to the competition brief, “The Jury shall approve the regulations, specifications and program of the competition, and shall answer queries from the candidates. It shall assess the competition proposals, decide on their ranking, and award the prizes and any awards. It shall produce a report on its final decision and issue recommendations for further action.” The Jury thus signed up for a comprehensive set of obligations, in excess of what is usually required of most juries, and indicating that this competition was not only well conceived, but well financed in light of the time demands required of the panel. The First Stage jury* was composed of: Mr. Dominique Perrault (Chair) Architect, France Members: Dr Mariyam Shakeela: WHO EB, Chair of the Executive Board Dr Margaret Chan: WHO, Director-General Dr Hans Troedsson: WHO, Assistant Director-General –

Mr. Alexandre Fasel: Mission of Switzerland (DFAE), Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Switzerland

Mr. François Reinhard: FIPOI, Director Mrs. Isabel Girault: Canton of Geneva, Director-General, Urban Planning Department Mr. Bernard Tschumi: Architect, USA Mrs. Momoyo Kaijima: Architect, Japan Mr. Diébédo Francis Kéré: Architect, Burkina Faso Mr. Bernard Kouhry: Architect, Lebanon Mr. François de Marignac: Architect, Switzerland Mrs. Julia Zapata: Architect, Switzerland To satisfy entry requirements, architects not only had to establish their credentials as registered architects, but also pay a registration fee in the amount of CHF 250 or 200 €. It can probably be assumed that the size of this registration fee was intended not only to attract firms with considerable resources, but also discourage small firms from participating and keep the numbers of entries at a manageable level. As a result, 327 paid registrations were received, and 253 entries were submitted and deemed complete and presented for preliminary review, excluding two entries, which were identified as identical and submitted twice. From the latter, The shortlisted teams for participation in the Second Stage were to receive CHF12,000 in compensation. The top-ranked teams were also to receive substantial prize money.

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