Architect fights ‘censorship’ of designs

19 Feb 2010

Excluded from eco quarter competition for ‘a small issue’, says OVA studio

A competition to design a new ‘eco quarter’ at the Vanga junction in Geneva has sparked controversy as architects disqualified from the competition have spoken out at the ‘censorship’ of their work. Calling for international entries to the competition, the Geneva State proposed the realization of a new ecologically sound neighbourhood to include housing, retail, business and cultural spaces. But when Hong Kong-based OVA studio submitted its proposal, it was disqualified from the competition for breaking anonymity.

A jury of 37 predominantly architect members chose a project named ‘Social Lofts’ by Dreier Frenzel as their winner. This and all other entries have been published in the competition catalogue and are currently being exhibited at the Forum Faubourg until 27 Feb, but OVA’s proposal has not been included. The jury's reasoning was that the identification data sheet was placed with the project figures data sheets, breaking the anonymity. However OVA's Design Director Slimane Ouahes said: "In fact, we put in one big envelope the project figures data sheets together with a sealed envelope containing our identity data sheet. On this last envelope was written 'fiche d'identification - ne pas ouvrir' which means 'identity data sheet- do not open'.

"We do not understand how that breaks the anonymity..."

While frustrating, Ouahes advises that they are not arguing the disqualification but the 'censorship' of their work: “We are driven by the will that our work does not fall into the trash bin for a small issue, completely censoring it from the people of Geneva to know about it as a potential alternative solution which brings some novelty in the relation between inhabitants and their urban and architecture environment, as well as harmony between nature and city.”

He suggests, however, that their designs may have been excluded for other reasons: “Why are we always looking at Dubai when there is something great created? Why do we not make it in Europe, in one of its Capitals? Geneva could have taken this opportunity to challenge the usual ‘bloc architecture’, that does not provoke any positive emotion from the public…Debate is a key to our work, ideas have to be challenged. So it is important for them to be known.”

Dreier Frenzel’s winning design features a grid formation with residences arranged in quadrilateral polygon blocks with courtyards. The project is at extreme contrast with OVA’s design, City Hills, which generates residential hill-like mounds with green roofs and sides, attempting to integrate the design within its natural surroundings.

"Our hills containing the various activities (residential, school, warehouses, artist workshops) try to soften the idea of a building, blending them in the landscape that you access easily from the streets. Walls become roofs, roofs become gardens...” said Ouahes. “This is the purpose of our work: Create intelligent, emotional and innovative solutions... For people.”

Competition organizers were not available to comment at time of publication.

Niki May Young
News Editor

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