SOM conceives permeable headquarters for Geneva Business District

The design had to negotiate a challenging triangular plot without imposing too much on its surroundings.

GENEVA – Japan Tobacco International (JTI), the third largest corporation in the industry, has recently settled into new headquarters in the Sécheron district of Geneva – just five minutes down the road from the World Health Organization. Designed by American firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), the building had to negotiate an awkward triangular plot while not disrupting the adjacent parklands too much.

Despite the spatial restrictions, the structure seems only to grace its footprint. A narrow, singular volume winds around the perimeter, with the northeastern and southern corners raised to create a zigzagging roof line above and wide permeability below. The inner void becomes a ‘public courtyard’ and additionally facilitates access to the Sécheron transit hub on the building’s west side.

As if embracing its biggest obstacle, the building employs the shape of its site as a motif, with prominent triangular reliefs on both the façade and the inner surfaces. The interior comprises a continuous circulation route of open-plan spaces from the ground-level lobby to the top-floor panoramic restaurant. A neutral, understated palette of material and colour in furnishings and surfaces is offset by curated art installations, which feature works by internationally-renowned artists such as Liam Gillick and Sol LeWitt.

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