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    Meeting with Patrice Bezos

    Partner of Favre & Guth SA

    This site, he has been “pampering” it for nearly eleven years with Comptoir Immobilier and Construction Perret SA. When we talk to him about the “Hauts du Château” project, the eyes of Patrice Bezos, partner of the architectural firm “Favre & Guth SA“, light up, his words fly. Because everything about this project is exceptional. This site of rare quality and unique visibility in the commune of Bellevue will soon see the construction of 287 housing units as well as the world headquarters of the private bank Lombard Odier. Deciphering this future emblematic development, which will mark the northern entrance to Geneva, with its main designer.

     

    Patrice Bezos, you describe the “Hauts du Château” site as absolutely exceptional. How is it so?

    It is the last large piece of land in the Canton where you can build generous buildings on the lakefront. To the south you have to enter the City to discover such well placed apartment buildings. To the north, you have to go up to Versoix. Then the view is absolutely exceptional. The project “Hauts du Château”where a sort of natural promontory surmounting the road to Lausanne by 4 or 5 m, offers a unique panorama on the Lake and the Alps. If we turn to the north-east, the clearance is such that we can see the lake almost to the Valais. And on the western flank, the visibility over the Jura is also magnificent.

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    We talk about “Hauts du Château”,but there is no castle…

    There was one, the Maison Forte de Vengeron, destroyed long ago. At the time of the construction of the Geneva-Lausanne highway, in 1964. Unfortunately I have not found any illustration of it. But Pierre de Meuron, of the Basel office Herzog and de Meuron, who won the architectural competition organised by the bank Lombard Odier for the construction of their headquarters, confided to me that one of his ancestors had lived in this castle. That’s quite a wink.

     

    You’ve been working on this project for 11 years. How many projects were developed before you found the right one?

    6 projects, I think. But that’s a pretty logical process for this kind of site, which deserves special attention. In fact, successive projects mark a logical progression each time, a desirable improvement. I didn’t develop them all myself. I have only been working on them for 11 years. But the origins of this development, with the former owners (Hoirie Rilliet), go back more than 20 years. The QLP was finally adopted on January 11, 2017.

     

    What was the main architectural challenge of this project?

    The main challenge was to find a device that allows everyone to enjoy the landscape, the panorama, to the fullest. With this visibility on the lake, the Alps, the Jura and the hill of Pregny, we are practically surrounded by 360 degrees of natural landscape. It is unique! So we chose this “U” layout, this open island that allows the “inner world” of the Hauts du Château to have access to the Lake. Also noteworthy is the clean lines of the activity building, designed by Herzog and de Meuron. The site is elevated in relation to the Lake. Indeed, the land is mainly made up of embankments dating from the construction of the motorway. This perimeter has moreover always been identified as a hub of activity in the last three cantonal master plans, because the Tuileries station is located on this land.

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    Having a SBB station in the immediate vicinity will give exemplary accessibility to future residents as well as employees working on the site…

    All right: people will be able to come by train, boat, car, bike and bus. The train will be particularly convenient. With CEVA coming into effect, there will be a convoy every quarter of an hour, or even every ten minutes. Finally, the SBB bridge over the Route des Romelles to the north of the site will be expanded to allow students using the train to go directly to Bellevue School.

    The train will be a great way to get to the school.

     

    Other developments are also planned in the area, including the Vengeron public recreation area, with the creation of a harbour?

    Yes, it is worth remembering, by the way, that the Vengeron was also created by the embankments of the construction of the motorway. Today, the SIG (Services Industriels de Genève) want to build a lake water pumping station there for their Genilac project. So there is a whole public programme for the requalification of this well-known leisure area. But we don’t intervene in it. But the future residents and employees of the “Hauts du Château”will largely benefit from it.

     

    What types of housing will be built in the other two buildings?

    These will be mainly rental housing, 60% of which must be 4-room or smaller apartments, in order to meet OCLPF (Cantonal Housing and Land Planning Office) standards. There will be 50% ZDLOC, 25% HM and 25% LUP, but no PPE. These dwellings will be located in an exceptional setting, in the middle of a wooded park, a real green setting, some of them having in addition hanging gardens or large tree-lined terraces of 80 sqm.

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    Burning question: will these constructions require the felling of trees?

    Not in the least since it is a field. The small grove to the west, by the railroad tracks, will be preserved in its entirety, as planned in the QLP. And we will plant new trees, many new trees. And big ones! Because it is necessary to protect the hotel-restaurant of La Réserve and the villas around these future constructions. These new trees will therefore be located around the perimeter of the site as well as in the interior space, in what we call the “vegetal heart”.

     

    Is the “Castle Field”your most beautiful project?

    It’s a unique project in many ways. But my favorite project is paradoxically the smallest one I’ve ever had to do. It’s that of a 200 m² villa on the lakefront, in Collonge-Bellerive.

     

    See in the press:

    Cote Magazine: “Les Hauts du Château, your future home at the gates of Geneva”

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