The Salon Suisse, organized by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia and running concomitantly to the exhibition at the Pavilion of Switzerland, is one of Switzerland’s official contributions to the 15th International Architecture Exhibition. Consisting of a series of talks and events, it provides an opportunity to question architecture in a stimulating atmosphere.
In its fifth year, the Salon Suisse is drafted by Leïla el-Wakil, architect, art historian and professor at Geneva University. For the opening event and over the course of four weekends during the Biennale Architettura 2016, she proposes an inspiring programme that focuses on consideration for heritage and tradition, sustainability, equity and ethics of tomorrow’s glocal architecture.
The two-fold aim of the «Salon Suisse» is to discuss and re-evaluate fundamental ideas resulting from a balanced conception of modernity, and to participate in setting these as adapted guidelines for architecture in the 21st century. Since the first oil crisis in 1973, research, teaching and experiments to develop forms of slow architecture have been numerous. New alternatives to the mainstream industrialized modes of construction were also explored, such as bio-climatic methods, the use of recyclable materials, self-build, and concerns about constructive traditions. But these pioneers’ experiments were kept to the sidelines. Now, thanks to the global diffusion of these ideas via the internet, a multitude of innovative, cost-efficient and meaningful architectural solutions often based on lessons from the past, proliferate worldwide. One can observe an empowerment of architecture by its users. The «Salon Suisse» offers a space for reflection on topics such as tradition as modernity, reuse and recycling, the priority of human beings and human needs, «Small is beautiful», and the Existenzminimum for all, at a time of greediness for some. Swiss and foreign architects, engineers, researchers, filmmakers and artists are invited to share their knowledge and experience around the theme of «a better architecture for tomorrow».
The opening event takes place on 26 May at 6.30pm outdoors in front of the Palazzo Trevisan.
The «Salon Suisse» continues in June (16 to 18 June) with the theme «Let’s rediscover». Guests include young Geneva-based company Terrabloc who explore sustainability and the economic use of resources, and architect Salma Samar Damluji from Beirut, who questions how to integrate new buildings without destroying the harmony and spirit of traditional building methods. Manuel Herz offers a guided tour of his «Pavilion for the Western Sahara», followed by architect Bill Bouldin speaking about his emergency constructions built in Gaza in 2009 and a screening of the documentary «Hors Champs d’Oliviers» in the presence of filmmaker Dominique Fleury.
In September (8 to 10 September), Salonnière Leïla el-Wakil returns to Venice and encourages us with the title «Let’s build». The theme of self-build will be central to this Salon. Since World War II, attempts of re-appropriation of house construction were made by movements such as Castors in France or the hippie generation in different communities such as Christiania in Copenhagen or Montredon in Larzac. Guests include Daniel Grataloup (Geneva), Mariana Correia (Portugal), Ahmad Hamid (Egypt) as well as the Egyptian artist Ammar Abo Bakr.
The third Salon (20 to 22 October) entitled «Let’s dig» explores «underground architecture», an ancient type of construction. Reinterpreting troglodytic devices within contemporary architecture is still a challenge, but might provide a solution for energy expenses. Architect and pioneer in the field Peter Vetsch (Zurich) will visit the «Salon Suisse», Mahnaz Ashrafi (Iran) will speak about the Iranian plateau, one of the richest concentration of troglodytic dwellings, and priest and scholar Maximous El-Antony will tell the public about a Coptic complex of churches and worship places in the mountain of Mukkatam (Egypt).
During the last weekend of the Biennale Architettura 2016, «Let’s reduce» (24 to 26 November) explores how we can build smartly and for the poor. This final Salon, which will end in an artistic synthesis where creation and interrogation will be linked, includes guests such as LVPH, a young Swiss architecture practice which has explored the potential of small-sized housing and renowned architect David Adjaye (London, New York, Accra) and maecena Ellen Baxter (New York), who will talk about a new typology for affordable housing. Once again, the Salon will leave the Palazzo Trevisan to visit the Pavilion «Horizontal Metropolis» with Cyril Veillon (EPFL/Archizoom). For the duration of the series of events, the «Salon Suisse» is open three days a week, on Thursday to Saturday from 7.00pm.
- Rashid Al Ruzzi and Bill Bouldin, Temporary earth-block refugee shelter in Gaza (Palestine), 2009, © Bill Bouldin
- Cultural Landscape of Maymand Base in Iran, Troglodytic Mosque of Maymand - Troglodytic Mosque of Maymand
- Leïla el-Wakil, Salonnière of the Salon Suisse 2016
- Sugar Hill Housing in Harlem, New York, 2015