The Ancien Manège was built between 1828 and 1829 to house a military horse-riding hall in the historic centre of Geneva. Its volumetric “parts” composition follows the architectural canons of the early 19th century: a large covered central arena, two lower volumes to the sides for the stables, a semi-circular rotonda as an entrance and four towers defining the corners of the building.
In 1930, with the substitution of the horse for the car, the building was transformed into a service station and garage. In 1950, to be used as a carpark, the Manège was considerably transformed; two large slabs in the central nave and ramps in one of the side volumes were built with in-situ concrete. The building was utilised in this configuration as vehicle parking until 2018.
As it was an under-utilised resource and inaccessible to the public, a participatory process began promoted by the neighbours of the historical centre, who formed an association to find ways to return the building to the city. It was the beginning of a long process that led to a public competition organised by the Geneva municipality that we won in late 2014.
From a formal point of view, our proposal seeks to re-establish the volumetric essence of the building. To achieve this, the project proposes the partial demolition of the extension built during the 1950s, partly eliminating one of the two slabs and the access ramps to the upper levels of the parking. This operation allows natural light to be brought to the interior and a large space in the central nave to be restored.
This demolition allows restoring the composition of the naves on each side of the central volume and the introduction of a terrace on the first floor accessible from the large central hall. During the project process, the towers were redrawn, and minimal adjustments were made in the composition of façade openings; taking advantage of the large openings to access the various parking areas, new joinery elements create new relations between interior and street.
Because the Manège was originally accessed on horseback and later by car, we had to redefine the idea of entrance and public realm. The transformed Manège is accessed from Rue Julienne-Piachaud via a new public exterior space that redefines the relationship between the building and the city. The main access door for the public is placed on the left side of the building, next to the fountain, becoming frontally visible when approaching from Place du Bourg-de-Four.
On the other hand, the idea of belonging to the city is achieved with the construction and conception of building details developed with local specialists from each trade: the treatment of natural stone, the careful substitution of lime mortars, lime paints, the insertion of exterior wood joinery, the redefinition of copper roof details, and the choice of clay roof tiles. All these interventions are related, establishing a dialogue with the historic city, adapting to current technical and programmatic requirements, allowing the building to be seen as a part of its material and historical context.
The idea of the main entrance hall is based on the experience of visiting other entryways in the historic city, but in the case of Manège, it seeks to define a more civic character. The entrance is considered as an urban room open to the public whenever there is activity in the building. It is a key component for the return of the building to the material and social context of the historic centre of Geneva, as well as for its comprehension, given that in this space construction elements of the 19th century, 1950s, and later coexist. As the basalt sets cross the threshold of the main public doors, it becomes also an extension of the public space of the historic city.
After understanding the volumetric composition, we conducted a study through a series of large models that explored tectonic, atmospheric, and architectonic qualities of the various rooms of the building as we found them. This allowed us to understand the potential of each space for the various uses proposed by the program.
These models were our tools for defining the strategy of intervention from a spatial and tectonic point of view. And, above all, they allowed for a more attentive study of the interventions carried out in the 1930s and 1950s, key in making us appreciate their construction quality, formal peculiarity, and importance in the identity of the building.
The strategy that finally emerged was to reuse the structural elements of the 19th and 20th century as much as possible. In this sense, we proposed precise demolitions that would clarify their reading, and that would allow the different parts of the program to find their place within an already defined spatial and volumetric structure, adapting the program to what the Manège provided.
International Design Competition: 1st prize
Project title: Réhabilitation d’un Ancien Manège en bâtiment d’équipements publics
Location: Geneva, Switzerland
Client: DPBA, Ville de Genève
Architect: Estar, Aurora Armental Ruiz & Stefano Ciurlo Walker
Collaborators competition: Jan Liebe, Andrés Fraga, Laurent de Wurstemberger, Carlos Comendador
Collaborators project: Ingrid Gjermstad, Thomas Lorin, Maya Brams Koch, Xulio Turnes Vieito, María Esther Bergua Orduna, Inês Gomes, Sakura Aoba, Jon Onandia, Julia Nahmani, Riccardo Amarri, Johanna Hemberger, Alejandro Morales Martín
Civil engineer: ESM
Building physics: ESTIA
Building Survey: ARCHEOTEC
Surveyor: Buffet Boymond
Heating and ventilation engineer: Ecobuilding
Sanitary engineer: 2015-2019 BTS , execution BUCLIN
Electrical engineer: DSSA
Lighting strategy: Estar, Quicler-Lopez
Acoustic engineer: AAB
Security engineer: Phenix Conceils
Scenic engineer: VADAS
Model photography: Andrés Fraga
Building photography : Andrés Fraga and Luis Díaz Díaz