Tag Archives: switzerland

Basel, Gundeldinger Feld

Today, I’ll take you to Basel, at Dornacherstrasse 192,where an old factory has been transformed into a neighborhood center, Gundeldinger Feld.

The history of this place could be the same as many other places around the world: a 19th century factory in the inner city suddenly moving to the suburbs in order to look for more space, an urban void opening up in the neighborhood, maybe some developer buying the buildings in order to turn them into  expensive lofts… But here the story takes a different path. The architectural firm INSITU, composed mainly of people living in the area, develops a project willing to promote local, indipendent business and improve the cultural offer of the neighborhood. They submit their proposal to the factory’s administrators: a Limited Company, composed of the architects themself will buy the buildings, renew and rent them to the different businesses.

Most of the architects from INSITU have previously worked in Africa, and thus they apply here most of the principles developped in their African experiences:

  • reuse of buildings in a way that minimizes the changes in the structure;
  • use of massive materials (concreetes, bricks, wood), easy to repare and with a long lifespan;
  • possibility, for a large and diverse population, to come and enjoy the area.

Today, Gundeldinger Feld includes a mixture of activities and business, including:

The central alley. The restaurant Eo Ipso on the left, offices on the right.

Details of the central alley. Here, all the works have been a new pavement for the alley, some flower pots and some bike racks. Thanks to laws in Basel encouraging car-free projects, no parking space is provided within the area.

Flower pots are not fixed. Customers can move pots as they like, and give their own touch to the alley.

Blinde Kuh restaurant, and its Braille-labeled bottles. In this restaurant, all waiters are blind, and people eat in complete darkness. Definitely worth trying!

A hall waiting to be renewed.

Another hall, turned into a public library. Lots of the factory equipement (cranes) are still on place.

The Rock-climbing training hall. Here too, cranes and other industrial equipements are still visible.

What lessons could be learnt from this project? Here are mine:

  • sustainable development won’t be made of futuristic materials (for example, we can compare Gundeldinger Feld with this project still in Basel) or over-determined, Le Corbusier-style projects, but of simple, reproducibile solutions. (more readings on this subject are on the website “emergent urbanism“)
  • In order to be accepted from the main audience, sustainable development has to be fun: somebody will adopt it because of their environmental committment, some others just because it’s fun or convenient. And all together, all these people will make the business thrive.
  • Small business need small rents, but not too small rents. Too expensive rents will make the area accessible only to the most luxurious brands, while too cheap rents will let small business survive without caring too much of their customers. And projects like this need business who take care of their customers!

Did you like this place? Vote for it on Cooltownplaces.com!

Lausanne metro line 2 (Le Temps)

The opening of Lausanne Metro line 2, by Marco Danesi (Le Temps)

source: domaine public

Crowdsourcing the eco-district of Lausanne Blécherette: consuming

On september 10, another crowdsourcing session has taken place in Lausanne. This time, the theme was “consuming”: shops, energy, water, wastes. Here is a list of the wishes that came out during the session:

Small independent shops rather than big chain suburban supermarkets (Most of people had few hopes that this would have been possible, the suburban model being seen as unavoidable).

– A farmers market and a flea market.

– Late-evening open shops.

– Finding a way to give a second life to used products still in good state (cradle-to-cradle).

– Encouraging (or even imposing) energy savings:
– bonus-malus policies
– laws forbidding unnecessary wastes
– make energy and wastes lifecycles visible

The whole session report (in French) is available here.


Little by little, from these sessions (here is the previous one), something is emerging: there is a class of people which feels neglected by the actual market. They want a small-scale walkable city, with:

-urban, small houses, located in a vibrant, pedestrian oriented space,

-small, independent (but open 24/7) shops which can serve different needs (vegetarian, organic, local) and work as real third places,

-less energy wastes and more community.


Next crowdsourcing session (“Moving”) on September 25, 20h00, espace Riponne, Rue du Valentin 4, Lausanne.

Crowdsourcing the eco-district of Lausanne Blécherette: growing up

(source video: OLA Métamorphose)

The city of Lausanne is promoting a serie of crowdsourcing sessions for the new eco-district of Pontaise-Blecherette. Last Tuesday I was in the first of them, called “Grow Up”, and heard lots of interesting ideas.

First of all, people wanted a small-scale district: small roads that will help random meetings, small houses that will help people go out…exactly the opposite of modern day suburbs.

Then, another wish was for different areas for different people, but still in the same district: vibrant places for the youngest, quieter places for the elders, a common place where people of different ages could meet, some appartments specially designed for old people within the district.

Another idea was about finding a way in which people could add a personal touch to their district: some unfinished spaces, some house decoration programs…

Meeting in two weeks (september 10, 20h00, espace Riponne – rue du Valentin 4, Lausanne) for the next crowdsourcing session!

in the meantime, French-speaking people can find all the ideas that came in Tuesday session here.

Protection against the railway noise: Lausanne Guesthouse

Another good exemple of protection of a building from noisy infrastructures  is given by the Lausanne Guesthouse, designed by Patrick Chiché.

In this building, all the services (stairways and bathrooms) are located along the reailway line, while living and sleeping rooms are all on the opposite side.

A resumé of the project is available here.

How to create a private space without using fences

This image (Geneva, square Pradier, via Microsoft Virtual Earth) shows how to create a calm square and give privacy to a block without using fences or corner buildings. The four external building act as a screen and separate the square from the through traffic of the surrounding roads. Access to the backside of the external buildings is still possible by two straight alleys that run behind the external buildings. The two internal buildings separate these alleys from the central square: to reach the square from the exterior of the block, two turn are always necessary, one from the surrounding roads to the alleys, and a second one from the alley to the square.

Welcome to Ligerz

(image: Association Seeland Biel/Bienne)

If you like trains, go to Ligerz. This little village on the Bielersee lies next to the only single-track stretch of the Jura Railway line: Everyday, 250 trains pass trhough this little village, and only 30 of them stop here.

L’Association Seeland Biel/Bienne is asking for a double-track tunnel at the place of the single-track line. Thiss will let direct trains to bypass the village, and will allow a 30 minutes headway between Neuchâtel et Biel, and between Geneva/Lausanne and Zurich/Basel.

What is not clear yet, is the destiny of the existing railway. will it be suppressed? Will it be dedicated to regional trains stopping in Ligerz? Regarding this question, I agree with Funimag and Stagniweb: If on one side, the upgrade of the Jura line is necessary, the existing line should be kept for regional trains. Different trains will need different lines.

Transit needs some creativity

Today, on All About Cities, I found an interesting post on improvements in public transports.

What if people with longer commutes could sit in a luxury coach, fully stocked with amenities, including:

  • Wireless internet (like the google bus in San Francisco)
  • A personal TV with a variety of programs (as on many airlines, especially in business or first class)
  • A comfortable tray table for your lap top, with a plug in
  • A cup holder for your morning latte
  • Free newspapers and magazines
  • Maybe even a bathroom


  • With mobile and internet technology, you could buy your ticket 10 minutes before heading out the door once you know you’ll be ready and confirm there is a seat for you.
    • Or you could advance book tickets, catching the 7 AM bus every day.
  • What if these luxury coaches departed from certain Starbucks (or equivalent) locations in the suburbs?
    • You could buy a latte and have a clean, safe place to wait. A bus company rep might even be in there with a mobile device to check you in.
    • As some suburban areas become higher density, this Starbucks might be at a Lifestyle Centre near peoples homes (walking distance or a park-and-ride situation).
  • What if some downtown workers who lived in suburbia could make extra money driving a nice coach into town. Presumably, there will be a need for some buses to drive in and stay until the end of the work day. An enterprising person could get his or her bus driver license and earn an extra $50 per day (and not have to pay their own commuting costs).
  • On shorter commutes perhaps different companies’ buses would be en route and you could check availability by mobile device and book a seat, catching it at a designated location. From the same mobile devices the driver would know whether to stop or not.
  • With competition among several commuting providers in a given metro area, service would be good. Creativity would be essential. Someone might offer regular customers Friday afternoon TGIF happy hour, for example.
  • One company might offer “business class” seating and “economy class” seating, similar to the airplanes.

Here in switzerland  CFF already provides most of these services on several lines (i.e. the Geneva-Lausanne intercity trains I often use), and I was discussing with people in All About Cities whether these amenities can be extended to buses.  I think buses are necessary, but cannot offer all the amenities of trains, mainly because of the different kind of comfort that the two systems offer.

(quote from Washington Post)

One erroneous statement is that bus rapid transit is just like light rail but on rubber tires. Light rail runs on domestic, low-cost electricity. Bus rapid transit runs on high-cost foreign oil. That is bad and costly.

Buses last only 15 years, while light rail cars last 40 years. In ice and snow, light rail has guidance and braking. Buses do not, unless the roadway is cleared and salted, polluting streams.

On open right-of-way, light rail absorbs water, but busways need extensive water runoff provisions to prevent damage. Light rail cars are larger than buses for comfort, efficiency and safety.

Bus size is limited by highway laws and clearances. The light rail ride is smoother and faster. Rails have no potholes, and electricity provides more power for acceleration.

If we want clean air, less foreign oil, lower long-term costs and more transit use, we must think about those differences.

Smart growth goes to western Lausanne: Les jardins de Prélaz

Once victim of urban sprawl, western Lausanne is organizing its growth with the principles of New Urbanism and Smart Growth. One of the examples of this trend is the “jardins de Prélaz” complex.

(image: Microsoft virtual Earth)

Built on the site of a former bus depot, the complex is made of different buildings, designed by different architects, and can be divided in 3 different areas:

1) The Square

this is the entrance door of all the complex: it hosts the transit stops, a supermarket and a pharmacy.

The transit stops, seen from the square.

2) The Street Front:

The public image of the complex, it follows the street alignment and the average height of the surrounding buildings. The ground floor hosts commerces and public services, and has a different texture than the above, residential floors.

3) The Gardens:

from the square, a lane leads to the Gardens, a group of row houses organized into small courtyards and small gardens.

In this area of the complex, most buildings have external stairs and corridors.

Stairs and corridors are also on the backside of the street front buildings.

view of one of the courtyards.

View of the lane, looking towards the square.

(source: Lausanne Architectures)

Lake parade

Last saturday, the city of Geneva turned into an immense disco for the lake parade! From 4PM to 3AM, 250,000 people danced and had fun on geneva lakeside.

For those who missed it, meeting point in Zurich for the street parade!!!

(source: 20 minutes)