GVA Base Ofice
by Regis Golay
BUILD is a structure, piece furniture, a bleacher, a giant desk, a library, a gallery, a living room, an auditorium, an architecture. BUILD is cheap wood simply bolted and concrete prefab garden slabs. BUILD is a repetitive module able to grow and fill the whole space of the studio. BUILD was constructed to resist the strangeness of the context; the interior of a well-known 1980’s building in Geneva, which is anything but neutral. The architecture of the existing edifice follows poorly the formal ideas of Hundertwasser. BUILD resists through abstraction, through functional thinking, leaving no spaces for curvy lines and organic lyricism. BUILD comes from construction, from the simplicity of modest materials and from its efficient response to the program. In one gesture, BUILD covers the whole brief: a pedestal for objects and exhibitions, a space for client meetings and display, a place for informal gatherings and 12 working stations. The multifunctional wooden bleacher was though and built for BASEGeneva, an international graphic design studio.
Vladimir Malevitch had a very strong, almost spiritual belief in abstract composition as a way to build perception and thus the representation of the world. The world as a non objectual representation was the synthesis of this studies that made the effort to deep into the art movements of the time (cubism, impressionism, etc.). Through the studies of suprematism he was able to take painting and art to a whole new dimension that had not been explored before him. Nature appeared at the opposite side of art. The radical gesture of art was to counterbalance the existence of freely existing forms in nature.
During the 60’s and 70’s, as a reaction to modernism, a number of architects fell into the impulsive need to go back to organic forms, copying somehow the growing shapes of organic origins. Undertwasser was among the most radical tenants of this movement, pushing his philosophy as far as he could in terms of freely built environments. The literality with which he applied his concepts of nature-like villages and buildings can be seen as extreme but it is impossible to leave behind the ingenuity needed to his creative proposals. When compared to the serious engineering and spiritual level of the work of Gaudi, or the holistic design world of Rudolf Steiner, Undertwasser can probably not be taken seriously as a designer. In Geneva, there has been an attempt to reach a sort of formal resemblance to Undertwasser work. The neighbourhood was built in the 1980’s under the design of Christian Hunziker and Robert Frei. One cannot blame the architects of following a certain “zeitgeist” of their time. There is a certain charm to this architecture, particularly in a protestant city.
Malevich occupied our minds when we were asked to intervene into the architecture of the organic and naive world of this building. How could we collide with this architecture, change the nature-oriented features and introduce a strict geometry, some sort of abstract roughness in the materiality of the interior. Could we use the strength and radical approach of working with the most basic elements?
The idea of composition seemed also quite logical since the place was to be occupied by a studio of graphic designers, BaseGVA. Three basic decisions emerged very quickly. The first one was to draw a “thick line” that crossed the space. This thick line would be the project, an object containing everything that the brief asked for, mainly a library, exhibition space for obects and print material and 12 working tables. The second was to work with a very composed wood structure that echoed the rigour of the anti-natural shapes and volumes inspired by suprematism. The third and final decision was to work the whole intervention as a furniture piece.
BUREAU A, rue de Grenus 12, 1201 Genève, Switzerland firstname.lastname@example.org