A contract for the development of the Ecumenical Centre and World Council of Churches offices has been awarded to the Geneva-based firm LRS Architects after they won an architectural competition for development of the site.
The announcement was made by the WCC and Implenia, the leading Swiss construction and construction services company, in a ceremony held at the Ecumenical Centre on 17 December 2013.
This sets the stage for the next steps in the development project which will involve completion of the area development plan, securing building permits and the beginning of construction of the first building around 2016.
Called the 'Green Village', the architectural design was one among ten designs short-listed in a competition launched by the WCC and Implenia in June of 2013.
The Green Village will feature several buildings with offices of the WCC and other ecumenical and international organizations, residential apartments and a commercial hotel-residence. These will be surrounded by gardens, walkways and a bicycle path, and be considered as part of the proposed Promenade de la Paix (a Geneva-area 'peace promenade').
Key elements of the current Ecumenical Centre complex, including the chapel, main meeting hall and landscaped garden which is at the heart of the location, will be preserved within renovated and upgraded surroundings.
“We have found reasons to hope for the re-development of the Ecumenical Centre and its surrounding property in ways that will be beneficial to the work of WCC, to tenants in this location, to the community in Grand-Saconnex and to the vision for the international zone as a Jardin des Nations,” WCC General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said in his welcoming remarks at the 17 December ceremony.
“We are excited with the concept of a Green Village, ecologically friendly and inviting, as part of the proposed Promenade de la Paix through this part of Grand-Saconnex,” Dr Tveit added. “We see this as a contribution to the local reality, as well as a space from which to connect with the global reality.”
During 2014 LRS Architectes will prepare the area development plan which will be followed by preparation and securing of building permits. Construction is scheduled to being in 2016 with the first buildings to be completed in 2017.
The Ecumenical Centre is in the Swiss commune of Grand-Saconnex, a community bordering Geneva. It was built in the 1960s as part of “international Geneva” and sits within walking distance of the United Nations, International Red Cross, World Health Organisation and International Labour Organisation.
The centre was conceived by leaders of the WCC as a space for dialogue and partnerships among churches and others of good will. Active partners sharing the Ecumenical Centre include the ACT Alliance, the Lutheran World Federation and the World Student Christian Federation.
In the near future the Global Fund, a charitable foundation, will also break ground for a new building within the same block as the Green Village.
“I believe it is important for us to have this proximity to so many United Nations agencies, to the offices of other international organisations, to frequent sites of conferences where people come from far and wide to share their experiences and concerns” Tveit said.
At the architectural awards ceremony, Implenia chief executive officer Anton Affentranger noted that the diverse jury’s final choice had been unanimous. Affentranger said that the WCC and Implenia had been concerned to address not only their own needs but also those of the Ecumenical Centre’s immediate neighbours as well as local and regional authorities. He described the Green Village project as a “win-win, gagner-gagner” solution for all involved.
Architectural designs of ten projects submitted in the competition were exhibited at the ceremony. Among these, the designs 'Common Ground' from the firm Designlab-Architecture and 'Mundus Novus' from the firm Group8 were awarded second-equal prize.