An urban campus for the 21st century HEAD

Tuesday 29 November 2016

A major international project
In the very short term, HEAD – Genève will enjoy a beautiful setting, which will allow the school to bring together its different options on one main site, in the Charmilles neighbourhood. The school will move into three historical industrial buildings, while still keeping the historical building of the School of Industrial Arts, on Boulevard James-Fazy. The HEAD will thus enjoy some 16,000 m2 of floor space that will promote the development, more ambitious still, of an international centre of excellence for art and design in Geneva.

A single site at the heart of the city for a constantly-evolving school
Since its creation in 2006 – 2007, from the union of the Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts and the Haute Ecole d’Arts Appliqués, HEAD – Genève has undergone remarkable development on a regional, national and international level. HEAD now provides its teachings in six buildings scattered around the city. These buildings are largely inadequate for the school’s projects and current operations. Their global surface has hardly progressed, despite the school opening six new MA programmes, developing major research projects, conducting hundreds of projects with many prestigious companies and institutions, and increasing its numbers by 170 students since 2007. 

This new real estate project will enable HEAD to create a genuine urban campus on two nearby sites (rather than six) well-connected by public transport: The James-Fazy site (historical building of the School of Industrial Arts) and the Charmilles site (three buildings). 

HEAD will finally be able to gather its different programmes, creating a main hub that will bring together the school’s workshops, a library, a cafeteria, a cinema studio, a vast auditorium fit to welcome internationally-renowned guests as well as large-scale cultural events. All this in a wonderful park open to students as well as to the public, the Gustave & Léonard Hentsch park, former stadium of Geneva’s football team and a gift by Benedict Hentsch to the City of Geneva.

This campus will give HEAD the full means to develop its academic and research project as well as its closely-related public cultural project. It will also help to improve the academic and administrative functioning on a single, remarkably appropriate site, and to thus generate real savings and quality improvements. Furthermore, it will encourage an already strong tradition in the school of interdisciplinarity. With a 2,800 m2 gain in floor space compared to our current situation, this new location will enable HEAD to execute its current and future academic projects, while meeting the most demanding Swiss and European standards in terms of health, security and surface area/student ratio. 

A new campus made up of historical industrial buildings 
HEAD, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, is both a very young school resolutely turned towards future inventions and an institution that is part of a long Geneva tradition, closely linked to its economy and humanist values. The new buildings, ‘miraculously’ gathered on the right bank of Geneva, along Avenue de la Châtelaine in the Charmilles neighbourhood, are the following: 

Elna: Former administrative building of Tavaro (until 1995), built in 1956 by architects Jean Erb and Georges Addor, it is one of Geneva’s most beautiful emblems of modernist and rationalist architecture. 

Hippomène: Built in 1916-1917 by Guillaume Revilliod and Maurice Turrettini for Piccand, Pictet & Cie, in order to house the production of the famous Pic-Pic cars. This example of functional architectural aesthetics was taken over by Tavaro in 1934, who moved their assembly-lines for their Elna sowing machines. It was recently renovated to host cultural events of all kinds. 

HES-SO Genève and HEAD will continue to host the events that usually take place there and that Geneva citizens have come to love in the Espace Hippomène, and in particular in its ‘cube’. 

114B rue de Lyon: Located on the other side of Avenue de Châtelaine, opposite the Elna building, and built around 1941, this building housed the Geneva factory Hispano-Suiza. 

‘HEAD, itself a place of manufacture, has found a perfect springboard for its projects in this prestigious historical brownfield site, to which it will bring a resolutely contemporary feel. Ideally located and with multiple capacities, this new campus for Arts and Design will offer the school’s teams, teachers and students a wonderful reward and a renewed sense of enthusiasm. I am particularly happy for those who have brought the school to the best European level, thanks to considerable efforts.’Jean-Pierre Greff, HEAD Director. 

The move and allocation of space 

The Elna and Hippomène buildings will be functional as is and will only require minor renovation work, while the building at 114B rue de Lyon will be entirely overhauled and renovated, and two additional storeys will be added. 

The move will begin in the summer of 2017, beginning with management and administration, followed by Research, Visual Communication, Interior Architecture, MA programmes in Spaces and Communication and Media Design, as well as part of the Cinema department. It should end in the autumn of 2019 with the move of the Visual Arts Department and the technical workshops to the building at 114B rue de Lyon. The Fashion Design and Product Design-Jewellery and Accessory departments, the prototyping workshops and the CERCCO (Experimentation and Research Centre for Contemporary Ceramics) will fittingly be housed in the building of the School of Industrial Arts, on Boulevard James-Fazy. 

This new campus was made possible thanks to the Hans Wildorf Foundation buying the buildings and making them available for HEAD, in the form of a DDP (independent and permanent right), graciously and without compensation of any sort. The installation work, after renovation, as well as the move will be financed by public funds (Confederation, State of Geneva, HES-SO Genève). 

The creation of this new campus is the result of an incredibly favourable conjunction of the planets! It will propel HEAD into the stratosphere! We have three neighbouring and emblematic buildings, simultaneously ready to house the activities of the University of Art and Design. We have two owners, Bénédict Hentsch and Swisscanto Fondation de placement, who have worked towards this move, in the hope to contribute to the development of this new neighbourhood. Finally, and above all, we have the selflessness of a foundation, which has understood what this project means for Geneva and which recognises the journey HEAD has made over the last ten years.’ François Abbé-Decarroux, Director General of HES-SO Genève. 

A new centre of excellence in the fields of art and design in Geneva 

HEAD will thus join the major European schools, which in the last 10 to 15 years, have benefitted from ambitious architectural programmes, whether it be new constructions or renovation programmes, like Zurich’s Toni Areal for example. This general movement attests to the development of Art and Design schools, which itself echoes the growing importance of art and design in the last 20 years, as a cultural phenomenon as well as a driving force for innovation and the development of creative economies in our post-industrial societies. 

‘This new stage in the development of HEAD is excellent news, both from an academic and cultural point of view as well from the point of view of urban planning, the transformation of a whole neighbourhood, and the attractiveness of Geneva.’ Anne Emery Torracinta, State Counsellor in charge of the Department of Public Instruction

The quality of the site that will welcome this new campus—located close to the city centre—, the exceptional architectural quality of the buildings gathered there, their industrial past and the symbolism they carry, their optimal, differentiated adaptation for various activities and academic hubs will provide HEAD with some of the most beautiful and important facilities dedicated to higher education in Art and Design on a European scale. This new location constitutes a historical turning point for HEAD—undoubtedly the most significant since the School of Fine Arts and the School of Industrial Arts were built in the late 19th century—and a key springboard for the project it will pursue in the years to come.


HES-SO Genève 
HEAD – Genève is part of HES-SO Genève, a key stakeholder in Geneva’s economic, social and cultural fabric. Its six higher-education schools provide university programmes focusing on professional practice, with 27 BA and 16 MA courses. Its 11 research institutes share in many regional, national and international projects. A member of the HES-SO University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Western Switzerland, it welcomes some 5,000 students. 

HEAD – Genève 
The Geneva University of Art and Design (HEAD) was born in 2006-2007 from the merge of two, two-hundred-year-old schools, the School of Fine Arts and the School of Applied Arts. Urban and international, it welcomes over 700 students hailing from 40 different countries and offers BA and MA courses in Visual Arts, Cinema, Space Design and Interior Architecture, Visual Communication, and Fashion, Jewellery and Accessory Design. In constant dialogue with the art scene and the region’s economic fabric, HEAD – Genève is continually evolving but is already one of the best European Art and Design schools. It is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year.


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