Miremont-le-Cret, Geneva

The Renovation of a City Landmark



Photo: ©yandre Prises de vues du 9 10 2015


The renovation of Miremont-le-Cret n 2012 was unusual in that the project was the subject of a competition. This building had long been landmarked as one of Geneva’s most significant modern accomplishments, designed in 1953 by a local architect, Marc-Joseph Saugey. The building’s design is remarkable in how it fits into a somewhat narrow, elongated site, but solving the issue of monotony that could naturally arise, had the facades not consisted of a simple elevation with no protruding edges. Instead Saugey came up with the idea of a faceted treatment of the facade on both sides of the structure, thus eliminating any notion of boredom on the part of a casual visitor.


But all buildings need a facelift over time, and by 2011 it became apparent that it was time to renovate the structure. Due to the very nature of the building’s landmark status, a competition, won by local architect Philippe Meier, led to a process which was completed in 2016. The competition for the renovation dealt mainly with the facade. According to the winner, Philippe Meier, “the subject of the competition was the way to renovate the facades, (mainly concerning) materials, preservation of original substance, energy answers without changing the (main) aspects of the structure.” No changes were contemplated in “touching the design of the apartments.” In some cases, the owners of the apartments had made changes.


According to a statement by Philippe Meier, “An intervention such as this on a heritage building requires, above all, a knowledge of the building’s history. A successful restoration lies as much in the preparation of the detail as in the knowledge of the object to be restored. The act of ‘changing the skin’ of a building allows for new technologies to be introduced into it, while still respecting the original work. In this case, the technology pertains to the thermal system. Indeed, the Venice Charter states:

‘Where traditional techniques prove inadequate, the consolidation of a monument can be achieved by the use of any modern technique for conservation and construction, the efficacy of which has been shown by scientific data and proven by experience’.

The renovation project therefore captures the very fine details that were executed at the time, while taking into account new standards of energy and comfort. The intervention is intended to be minimal, in deference to the spirit of Saugey, as well as to maintain the building’s existing substance, wherever possible.”




Photos: ©Stanley Collyer  Street view (above); View to entrance (top)


We were allowed to view the interior of one of the flats which had not been altered, still with the original fixtures and furniture from the 1950s. The plan of the apartment at that time was rather unusual, as the main room was an open area design with the kitchen and main living area as a single open space.

Comparing recent photos of the building versus photos from its conception, it is clear that the Philippe Meier firm did a remarkable job in preserving the original intent of the Saugey design.


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Russian Open Competition for Alternative Layout Design in Standard Housing

1st category prize entry by AKVS (Image courtesy STRELKA-KB, © AKVS Architecture)



Of all the nations that had been part of the Soviet Bloc after World War II, only the Russian Federation itself has lagged behind most of its neighbors in the design and construction of affordable housing. During that post-Cold War period, housing construction in cities such as Moscow struggled to keep up with demand. The result of this has been some of the most crowded urban conditions in Europe. Privacy has been an issue, whereby more than one family has oftentimes occupied a small apartment, possibly only separated by a curtain. Thus, in this housing competition, where the focus was primarily on layout design, it was not unusual to see how the various competitors addressed this issue.



According to the competition brief, the aim of the competition was “to create comfortable living environments for Russian citizens. It challenged contestants to design planning layouts for five apartments of a medium size and five apartments of a large size, for three out of four proposed building types.”


Image courtesy STRELKA-KB


Here it is worth noting that the anticipated size of a studio apartment for the purposes of this competition was between 225-270 sq ft, whereas the average studio (one-room) apartment in the U.S. is between 500-600 sq ft. Thus, all of the other models were also smaller than one would find in the West. But everything being relative, apartments based on these models would be a marked improvement in many respects for the average Russian consumer.


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