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Works starts on SOM's Geneva HQ scheme

Construction has started on Skidmore Owings & Merrill’s (SOM) competition-winning headquarters scheme for JTI International in Geneva, Switzerland

The practice’s London office saw off Woods Bagot, Foster & Partners and Kisho Kurokawa Architect & Associates to land the 25,000m² project in 2010.

A final construction permit was granted in December 2011.

The nine-storey scheme will house more than 1,000 staff and features two striking cantilevers ‘that suspend the building at the opposing north and south corners’.

SOM's competition-winning headquarters scheme for JTI International in Geneva, Switzerland

SOM’s competition-winning headquarters scheme for JTI International in Geneva, Switzerland

The architect’s view

The buidling is located in an area of Geneva characterised by a unique combination of prestigious international organisations and extensive parklands. Creating a strong identity amongst its illustrious neighbours, the design meets the client’s aspiration of a landmark headquarters, whilst responding sensitively to the surrounding parkland. The design also draws references and connections from not only its immediate context but also distant landmarks and views across Lake Geneva and the Alps.
The building celebrates the relationship with its context by form rising out from a single geometry, which is manipulated by a blend of architectural and sustainable strategies to effectively reduce the real and perceived impact on the site. Through elevating the corners of the building, the courtyard form increases permeability across the site working with the striking form of the building, the torsional tube structural system that unifies the building and achieves a column free office space, providing maximum internal flexibility and future adaptability.
The scheme’s architectural and sustainable design strategies needed to exceed the demanding efficiency targets of Swiss national codes by 20% in order to comply with the more ambitious local ‘Minergie’ standard. This required the design to achieve a performance alongside the very best UK and European examples without any loss of architectural quality. This approach will reduce the real and perceived environmental impact of the building on its site and reflects JTI’s dedication to conducting its business in an environmentally sustainable way.
The nine-storey structure is engineered with two striking cantilevers that suspend the building at the opposing north and south corners. This integration of engineering and architecture results in a number of unique design features including a 5 storey reception and lobby area. The building comprises of executive offices; a business lounge, a conference centre, a crèche, a fitness centre, an auditorium, a restaurant, kitchens, outdoor roof terraces and the central courtyard area. The latter is a landscaped garden with a variety of open-air and shaded areas at the heart of the site which incorporates an impressive Yayoi Kusama water feature providing an inspirational outdoor setting for employees and the local neighbourhood.

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