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Cross-border area of Geneva region: a culture of alpine living

Between distinctions and relationship, a countryside project
Claire Rosset et Alexis Rousset
Cet article est une traduction de :
L’espace transfrontalier du bassin genevois : une culture alpine de l’habiter


Using our tools of architect, of architectural project, we suggest to study the cross-border area of Geneva region in the context of the construction of a new alpine region.
The inhabitant’s daily way of life today questions the administrative borders and the limits of the metropolis of Geneva. This territory is particularly marked by systems of relations at various scales, from the international one, to that of the “small town” and the rural space. The process of architectural design requires a specific understanding of territorial issues, questioning simultaneously the densification of the urban poles and the sustainability of the “urban countryside” in the Geneva region.
In particular, we study the hypothesis of a “countryside project” as a basis for the development of Geneva region, referring to nearby locations of the city as “the next villages”. The conceptual hypothesis of a transversal axis formed by “the next villages” becomes the basis for strategies and initiatives in various sectors, rural housing, production, and mobility.
It will is experimented more exactly on the municipality of Viry through various interventions to build a new relationship between city and countryside.
We plan to develop an position that distinguishes territorial differentiation, distinction between the town and the countryside, developing the idea of the inevitable influence of urban growth and the whole urbanization question of the Alpine region.

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Notes de la rédaction

Translation: Greg Perry

Texte intégral

1The work of the architect is often reduced to the design of buildings without explicit link with a reflection on the geographical area in which it is located, the “grand territoire” in which it takes place. However, project leads to “form a purpose” (“former un dessein” - Larousse, 2006) in and from specific locations. We believe that the proper approach to architectural design is to consider in a different way the different issues for the architectural project in its environment.

The architectural project as hypothesis

  • 1 The final studies project (Projet de Fin d’Etude - PFE) allowing graduation in architecture master (...)

2The work presented here is part of a key moment in architectural studies : the final project, carried out within the master Aedification-Grands Territoires-Villes of the Ecole Nationale Superieure d'Architecture (ENSAG)1. Done in a short time, tries on the one hand, to bring together tools and methods learned during our architecture studies and , secondly , to contribute to the developement of new ideas . This exercise should be used to position ourselves as future architects, not only to build, but more importantly, to participate in the development of territories. As Françoise Very notes, “the issue is not to deny the Vitruvian ‘aedificatio’ or Albertian ‘De re aedificatoria’ as an architectural tradition, but not to reduce the issue of architecture to one of its proper terms, this is to say that neither the building, nor even that of the territory” (Very, 2007). An important challenge of the exercise is to prepare us to deal with situations whose complexity is compounded by the condition of uncertainty in which the architectural project is registered and where it often undergo changes, interruptions, even starting again. Also, the ability of the architect to meet these conditions seem essential and even more interesting when the project becomes questionable, when the architect can suggest a new vision of a site. We therefore defined as an area of study the franco-valdo-genevois area, where the cross border nature brings out new complexities in town and country planning.

3To completely connect this approach to the approach taken in the master Aedification-Grands Territoires-Villes, in conjunction with the research laboratory of architectural history professions, édifices-villes-territoires, the issue is to conceptualize the idea of a “territory” to be used as a element challenging the project to reconsider itself. As future architects, to adopt this position forces us to consider our places vis-à -vis our profession and our future .

4It is thus important to reposition the idea of the territory in the context of an architectural project as such it becomes a form of questioning. For the architect involved in this process, the “territory” requires not to be understood as an “extended” frame of the site on which he is working, but as “transformation of different systems, as in a living organism” (Very, 2011). Under these conditions, it is therefore the theoretical framework in which architectural methods allow an “interpretation of the complexity of reality” and the project, as a “tool for thought” (Very, 2007), that the total of all questions asked within this spatial framework, provides us with specific architectural goals. So we asked ourselves how the tools of the architect are related specifically to the cross-border area in the designing of a new alpine region.

5Our work consisted, at first, to understand the issues and potential of the Geneva area, and secondly, to adapt it to the project. Thus, putting the cross-border area to “the question of territory” allowed us to confirm the first parameters of the project which are diversity and specificity of its components and its temporality.

6Therefore, the methodology that was developed aimed at using the tools of the architect to focus on the Geneva area without trying to reconcile antagonisms from the mountain to the lake, from the countryside to international city (“ville-monde” - Braudel , 1979) of Geneva .

  • 2 This analysis, led to six, is presented in the master’s essay « Entre distinctions et relations. L’ (...)
  • 3 « La métropolisation entre inévitablement dans tout débat sur l’aménagement. D’abord parce qu’il s’ (...)

7The analytical work2 on various modalities (geographical, historical, rural, urban, social uses, ...) of the Geneva area allowed us to escape from an approach which consider only the growth of the city as the feature of metropolitisation. Defined by Jacques Lévy: metropolitisation is a process of spatial reconfiguration caused by the redistribution of the population between the cities because of their attractiveness. This phenomenon is expressed by highlighting the politics of including cities in a world system3. The question of managing issues of large metropolises is therefore often liberated from the location in which they operate. The development of two architectural approaches corresponding to two different sites, we were able, secondly, to question, at different levels, the parameters of the franco-valdo-genevois area.

  • 4 This work was the subject of a specific work by Yulissa Hernandez and Farshid Kardan entitled « Sai (...)

8The first approach4 is linked to the analyse the issues of densification in the town of Saint-Julien-en-Genevois. Working on the temporality of large cross-border movement, it suggests the establishment of an urban center at the scale of the “International city (ville-monde)” Geneva within a space perceived as “suburban”.

  • 5 The work « Viry, projet de campagne. Un axe transversal pour penser le territoire » led by Cyril Bo (...)

9The other approach5, on which we will focus, is interested in how the historical countryside can be nowadays considered as “under the influence” of the city of Geneva. To break the focus on the conglomorate city, our “countryside project” proposes to take the town of Viry, to structure the agricultural land endangered by “standardizing” urbanization.

The Geneva region: an alpine territory

10Lake and mountains, rivers and cliffs, horizontality and verticality characterize the Alps and builds a landscape of constraints of the Geneva area. This is highlited by natural elements that accompany and guide human development. For example the Mont Blanc, seen from Geneva, the Jura and Salève, which are landmarks from the plain, Lake Geneva and the Rhone river, etc … are the marks of the “pre-Alps” landscape that characterizes the particular situation of the city of Geneva. (Figure 1)

11In addition, the Alps is an area of significant infrastructures that contradict the Alpine region from its image of nature, and forces us to question its urban dimension. Furthermore, they are human elements making limits, marking the territory and participating in its diversity and contrasts.

  • 6 In 2010, the exhibition « La Haute-Savoie en construction. 1860-2060, de la ville sarde au territoi (...)

12One can understand in the urbanisation of the Alps (Comoli, Fasoli, Very, 1997), a culture of density, and particularly an urban density of “little towns”, making the most of land suitable for human settlement while preserving farmlands. Indeed, if we often associate the Alps to the tradition of rural buildings, it is true that an urban culture of the small town centers has developed throughout the Alps6. Based on the variety of alpine geography, the villages developed providing an opportunity for a large variety of forms. In addition, Joëlle Salomon Cavin notes that “these dominant forms of urbanization added to a particular topography finally make the mountains, countryside, rural villages geographically closer wherever they are in Switzerland. This proximity is also visual in the sense that even from the center of the largest cities, such as Zurich, Basel, Geneva, mountains and countryside are always visible” (Cavin, 2004).

13The Geneva area is part of this particular duality between urban and picturesque alpine landscape. Successively, the arrival of CERN (1954), the extension of the international airport of Geneva-Cointrin (1957-1962) and the establishment of headquarters of international organizations have played a decisive role in its international position. Thus the whole area benefits as of the sixties of a very strong appeal, marked by a decline in agricultural activity and an increasingly strong urban and land pressure due to its geopolitical position.

14Geneva, with its international reputation, and a population of almost one million inhabitants, is one of the most important component of the Alps without being in the heart. Contemporary Geneva can thus be considered as an Alpine metropolis, both constrained by topographical features and the stakes of any large dynamic metropolis.

15Also, an important issue is to remove the idea of mountains as the first parameter of Alpine character of the Geneva basin. The mountain is not the first dimension, but a spatial and physical data querying complex relationships within the same region. This graduation work, “Between distinctions and relationships. The cross-border area of Geneva area” is central to the notion of an Alpine metropolis and its surrounding natural area. It focuses on ways of differences and relations induced by geographical, historical and political factors.

Towards a relation-region

  • 7 Homepage of the website of the « Projet d’Agglo » in 2012, April the 13rd ( at (...)
  • 8 As notes Claude Raffestin in the 70’s, the boder has a determining role in territory specification  (...)

16“I have 915,000 inhabitants / I’m Swiss & French / I’m Rural & Urban / I’m a very dynamic area (...)”7. Here , as defined by the administrative authorities in spring 2012, the “Grand Genève”, an area of 2000 square meters with 208 municipalities and 400,000 jobs. In addition to being “defined” in a physical way throughout the Alps and the Jura, the Geneva area includes an internal limit: the French/Swiss border8. The international role of Geneva lends to a definition of a metropolitan area that extends beyond national borders. Cross-border flow challenges the question of the role and importance of traditional boundaries (borders, regions, departments, districts, municipalities) in the definition of the territory. To take into account the new issues encountered by the “Grand Genève”, governing bodies are therefore faced with the need to consider the area “to reach beyond boundaries” (Bessat, Surchat, Roulet and Vial, 2010). The “Projet d’Agglo” 2030 therefore tries to erase some of the administrative limits (firstly the national border) to build an “economic area” in a new sphere of operation.

  • 9 The metaphor of development in “glove fingers” is taken from Steen Eiler Rasmussen (1898 - 1990). D (...)

17The issue of “redefining” the boundaries raised by the “Projet d’Agglo” is a recurring problem in a contemporary city. If we consider the case of the Geneva metropolitan area, we are unable to specify limits. The “enclosed city” (Chesneau, Roncayolo, 2011) of Geneva is contained in an urban area in a strict physical sense. Metropolization in “Finger plan”9 of Geneva includes Annemasse, Saint-Julien-en-Genevois or Bernex (figure 2). Furthermore, the influence of Geneva extends beyond the built up ares as noted by many daily flows crisscrossing the Geneva area. Thus it should be considered as the entire territory unto which all close relations to Geneva unfolds. One should consider the city not in terms of limit but over all its area of influence, built up or not. While traditionally a city is defined as the city “of a province or region (...) whose reach and influence makes it play the role of a capital” (Chesneau, Roncayolo, 2011), we could then include all the Geneva basin to the Geneva metropolis.

18As Marcel Roncayolo says, “the limits of the city are more complex to understand than those of an enclosed city or conurbation; it means not only a place of high concentration of population and activities, but of diffusion of designs that are lightly locked in schemes. A city is defined less by its internal organization than by its system of external relations, whether the region, other cities, other countries. [...] The apparent scope is the temporary result of forces acting more than a acquired status” (Chesneau, Roncayolo, 2011). The Alpine metropolis of the Geneva area is thus expressed in the diversity of its internal relations and those that are built within the surrounding area and alpine towns which, as Michaela Paal said “are still very hierarchically articulated between them” (Paal, 1999).

19The “Grand Genève” can raise the importance of considering the Geneva area by extracting traditional structuring spaces by administrative bodies. At the same time, the definition of a region by its internal and external relations more than by its morphological state must be a way to consider it in terms of its richness, complexity and differences.

20While this space, made by is singular relationship between territories and various administrative entities, tries to organize itself in a common vision, this suggests different qualities in a hypothetical place: a relation-region. “As there were nation-states, there will be nations-relations. As there were boundaries that separated and distinguished, there will be boundaries that distinguish and connect and those which will distinguish only to connect” (Glissant, Chamoiseau, 2008).

Challenge of a countryside project

21André Corboz conceives the transformation of contemporary territory, including Switzerland, as the result of the fragmentation of city spaces. To do this, he uses the concept of hyperville (Corboz, 2000) and proposes to look at the urban phenomenon not as a whole, in the manner of the “modern” city, but as a collection of non-hierarchical elements under multiple approaches. Under these conditions, it seems important, to think about the Geneva area, we do not use an approach that merely anticipates the growth of the city of Geneva towards countryside. We have considered an attitude that is looks for a difference between city and countryside. The idea “relation-region” allows us to consider two simultaneous approaches to the territory within the framework of an architectural project. In considering the internal qualities of the landscape in its diversity, we have a better understanding of the issues of the Geneva basin, and can answer by two scales and two historic developments of the territory: the “international scale” of Geneva, and the “little towns” scale of the franco-genevois countryside, which once belonged to Savoie.

22The agronomist and geographer Pierre Donadieu is working on close countryside that are now parts of cities and introduces the concept of “urban countryside” (Donadieu, 1998). It refers to the idéal réaliste of a countryside that would be appropriated and livable by residents and farmers while maintaining an essential landscape charm in the city (figure 2).

23Thus, it appears that the contemporary urban fabric cannot exist while ignoring the outlying rural areas. One must consider agricultural areas as regulatory elements or organizers of forms and functions of urban spaces, Xavier Guillot asserting that “rural areas are working in a complementary dialectic relationship with the city” (Guillot, 2011). In other words it should take into account the agricultural areas as planning tools for the green and multipolar city of the future.

24Proposals for landscape or architecture projects should answer to the “practical” and “ownership” differentiating between urban/countryside zones, and ways to involve people in a concerted management policy on the future of the agricultural areas under risk of urbanization. Considering this, and in the spirit of traditional “urban projects”, the idea emerged of a “countryside project”.

The issue of “the next village”

25Facing the “Finger plan” and the metropolitisation of Geneva, it seems important to take an interest in these sometimes neglected spaces of the city. To clarify our point, we will call them “the next village” the next town or the next village after the town, at the end of the “finger”.

26The experience leads us to think that “the next village” will be the next built up space in rural areas to be eaten up by the city. The implementation of new territorial policy leading to coherent and differentiated integration of projects for these villages to the urban organization of the “Grand Genève” system, seems, to us, of a great urgency.

  • 10 In 1936, the “Plan de Zone” of the architect Maurice Braillard (architect and urban planner, 1879 A (...)

27The “the next village” through its location is not an isolated element. It is possible to find in the Geneva basin a number of “countryside towns” under this critical territorial situation on both sides of the border. It would be necessary to develop a global urban planning could it be that: these towns would be, near farmland and natural areas, the main vectors of this territorial development10.

An axis of “the next village” as a conceptual support

  • 11 The though formulated by Bernardo Secchi and Paola Viganò through the idea of ville diffuse (diffus (...)

28“The concept is neither the theme of the project nor the project on an overall scale, but the contribution that the project is able to provide to a new concept of the problem; it is both the theory and hypothesis. This is the displacement point of view, the gap, the excesses” (Viganò, 2012). Based on the idea developed by Bernardo Secchi and Paola Viganò11, our approach is to consider as a conceptual hypothesis the crossing of a “territorial slice” of urban Geneva countryside, which is the support of strategies, through a north-south transverse axis formed by “the next village” located on both sides of the French/Swiss border (figure 3).

29Crossed from east to west by important roads, the territorial slice that we have chosen is heavily orientated towards Geneva. Its facilities are essentially directed towards it. This focusing towards the city center leads to a “depersonalization” of places: it establishes lifestyles remote from their identity, their specificity; they are “under Geneva domination”.

30The territorial support that is considered permits one to envisage a different future. On the one hand, the existence of rural and urban centers fragments more or less large or dense differentiates it from the agglomerated urban area of Geneva, and move closer urban centers to urban countryside. On the other hand, the existence of a pattern of zones with strong morphological characteristics and many roads can serve as embryo to networks structuring a new organization for more local connections. Perlik Manfred made ​​the observation that in the Alps “small cities and villages having a function of a local center on the smallest scale (villages, towns, towns with a market) show a character of ‘urbanity’ whose foundation is historical”. (Perlik, 1999).

31Taking the opposite view of the flows that drain everything to Geneva, an axe linking La Plaine (Switzerland) to Le Châble-Beaumont (France), crisscrossing the area studied, connecting a myriad of points of interest highlights a secondary path within the Geneva basin, revealing diversity of rural landscapes of the cross-border area. It would define new social activities and practices not only for the space studied, but also for the territory as a whole. Indeed, highlighting by the setting up of a network of a series of “the next village”, a kind of “Network PMville” (Perlik, 1999) across the Geneva area, allows us to consider the future of these villages with a certain complexity, not only in their relation to the “city center”. Thus, the transversal axe becomes a new mode that allows to differentiate between countryside and city.

32Diversity and complementarity, transversality and cross-bordering, major axes and networks, are making this territory a excellent test area for new strategies, confronting at an intermediate scale various issues.

Concept and project tools

33The idea is to make a critical use of the tools of analysis and project in the service of objectives for the territory. To plan a strategy on a delimited space, to set goals, can also provide an opportunity to rethink the process of project in its territorial dimension. The implementation of strategies across this part of territory is to use our architects tools determined by the proposed scales ranging from 1/25 000 to 1/1: a project both territorial and local, with objectives and means of action.

34Furthermore, the use of such tools can lead us to face the territorial and urban policies of the “Grand Genève”. This confrontation would allow to formulate opportunities more than constraints. It is then a question of operating a switch between the proposal of ideas of the territory and a proposal of projects to be built.

35The experience of strategies serves the development of an architectural thought for defining new types of countryside “quarters”, on which are applied project tools. The hypothesis of a “transversal” axe permits to switch from a system widely turned to Geneva city and constrained by land pressure, to a system that integrates a network of “small towns” included in specific networks determined by issues of land pressure, sustaining of agricultural spaces and mobility.

Viry: a town with urban and rural issues

36The conceptual support of a transversal axe and “the next village” helps to rethink how to live in Viry from three themes: housing, eating, mobility. It will be the starting points of three projects as a “means of action” (figure 4). We have established a housing project to take over ownership of the issue of densification of built up areas in rural spaces; a rehabilitation project of a farm to build a short consumption network, at a village scale; a project of a multimodal hub that includes the development of Viry in the transport network of the Geneva basin.

37All these projects include a new approach to the town of Viry. More than responding to the pressure on land encountered by the town of Viry, the proposed projects try to transform the way of living in the town. Rural towns are often subject to the use of the car in many cases, we suggest ways of changing the practical way to move within Viry. Essential mobility spots (Train station, Park and Ride) would benefit the use of different local facilities (library, convenience stores) this would modify time and space to places usually only used for transportation. Furthermore, it can be observed that an “agricultural slice” exists between the town to the south, and the train station to the north. This mix of an agricultural space in a built up area is specific to urban countryside, and is an essential element to differentiate the “living in Viry” from “living in the rest of the territory”. By reactivating the farm, we propose to sustain the agricultural area.

38Finally, the role of Viry in the Geneva basin can be viewed two ways: in the relation and its connection to the Geneva area and with its particularities giving place and quality to the relationship between agricultural areas in the daily flow of people.

Living in Viry, between agricultural and urban edges

39Most of the inhabitants of Viry are living simultaneously in a city and in the countryside, the Geneva area and the town of Viry, forces us to rethink “the interaction between rural culture and urban culture” (Guillot, 2011). In addition, the town of Viry, like the Geneva metropolitan area, is particularly prone to land pressures requiring the authorities to think about the densification of their community. The hypothesis of the project takes into account, in particular, the issues of “housing” and questions the densification aspect confronted with the specific context of the “small town”. Indeed, as Martin Chenot said, “it is clear that the “compact city” concept is insufficient to imagine what will be the organization and form of human settlements tomorrow – and that there is urgent need to think otherwise highlighting and activating what we might call the “rural potential” in terms of resources and social and spatial innovations”(Chenot, 2011). Based on the projects of the municipality of Viry, we have seen the development of a residential neighborhood in a rural environment and agricultural borderline with facilities that correspond to more collective ways of living .

40The area chosen to develop the architectural project is a buildable area of the town. To the northwest of the town center, it is both close to buildings and fields. The presence of cultivated land, the castle of Viry, the brand new cultural center, the church steeple and the existence of a heterogeneous building of three to four floors are all factors which made identifying visual axes and their integration in the designing of the new development. On a slope, the project plays on the different levels, plays on the differences between the seven proposed buildings, and endeavors to find volumes at the same scale as the castle, or of the town center and existing buildings. By taking into account these features, the idea is brought out in the project is integrate the importance of the nearby agricultural land and the remarkable landmarks into context. Then can be built a specific urban frame that allows a link to the new quarter and the current urban frame (figure 5). The change of scale allows a better understanding of the existing urban frame with its strengths has allowed us to adapt our project in relation to existing heteroclite urban form.

41Once an understanding of the area is established, the work of the architect is to distinguish what “draws existing urban shape”. Working to understand the unique urban shape of a rural town such as Viry is rarely approached by the architects, who are used to work on urban frames of bigger cities. This research resulted, in the context of our project, in obtaining specific architectural forms which point pathways enhancing the strengths and landscape. Beyond the formalizing a new structure for the town, a task of programming linked to the daily usage of the space, becomes a support to the approach. The spatial disposition permits us to locate small neighborhood facilities and questions the ways of “living in Viry”, and confronting this with urban shapes and uses.

42The project is designed, on the one hand, on the roadside. The relation to the street requires special attention, and is met with the creation of a park and ride and a multimodal center. Located along a major road leading to Geneva, the project offers a break in the journey from home to work, making the drive through Viry a particular moment, a place of exchange, interactions. This interface is the link between Viry and the rest of the territory.

43On the other hand, various facilities – outdoor kitchens, stands for associations – could on working with the neighboring land, involve the agricultural space. To the west of the plot, the project is linked to an existing green belt, a little river bordered by vegetation, proposing an intermediate spot between a densely built up area and agricultural space. Therefore, the challenge is to design a space which can be adopted by everybody, at the same time permeable, legible and crossable, and open to the landscape.

44Through this project, we work to clarify the boundaries between living space, roadway and farmland. Thus, the diversity of the urban countryside enables one to characterize the built up environment of Viry.

An alpine culture of living

45An architectural project, using the above approach, becomes a real tool for discussion. It reveals the characteristics of the territory, submits it to debate and can guide choices made necessary by the rapid attenuation of the concept of distance in the “ville diffuse” (Secchi, 2004). A new relationship between the city (Geneva) and the territory (Geneva area) has to be invented by the differentiation of places and spaces. Architects have to think about the future of towns such as Viry to make these locations where people choose to live for reasons other than the easy access to land. In asserting that “shape can inform”, the architectural specificities the Alpine townships may be of assistance for designing new architectural styles and the renewal of the character of these localities.

46The “next villages” of urban the countryside of Geneva reveal the richness and architectural complexity of these “small towns” that characterize the Alps in Austria, Switzerland, Savoy and Italy. Architects are faced with another challenge specific to the Alps: to re-examine, beyond the thought of mountain territory, the evolution of the urbanization of the Alpine space to continue the specific story.

47The value of exploring Geneva area and cross-border space to interrogate the Alps lies well in what it reveals an Alpine culture of land management: a city/town comparison, a particular city/countryside comparison, which is, again, very specific. Therefore, these local Alpine specificities allow the architect to ask for, through the architectural project, new architectural forms to live in the territory.

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1 The final studies project (Projet de Fin d’Etude - PFE) allowing graduation in architecture master 2, it was conducted jointly by Cyril Boyer, Yulissa Hernandez, Farshid Kardan, Nicolas Novarina Farshid Kardan, Claire Rosset and Alexis Rousset, in the master “Aedification, Grands Territoires, Ville” under the direction of Patrick Thépot and Francoise Very.

2 This analysis, led to six, is presented in the master’s essay « Entre distinctions et relations. L’espace transfrontalier du bassin genevois ».

3 « La métropolisation entre inévitablement dans tout débat sur l’aménagement. D’abord parce qu’il s’agit d’un phénomène largement spontané, produit par la société civile ; on suppose donc que le politique doit aussi avoir son mot à dire. Ensuite, en associant sans équivoque taille de la ville et développement, la métropolisation remet en question les politiques publiques uniformes et pose la question de l’équité. Enfin la métropolisation pose un problème d’échelle : les grandes villes ont des tailles démographiques et économiques comparables à celles de nombreux Etats. Un gouvernement urbain maître de son aménagement est un défi supplémentaire aux dispositifs centralisés d’action politique telle que l’aménagement du territoire à la française en a longtemps été une des expressions les plus manifestes » (Lévy, 2000).

4 This work was the subject of a specific work by Yulissa Hernandez and Farshid Kardan entitled « Saint-Julien-en-Genevois, un pôle vertical au cœur de la nature ».

5 The work « Viry, projet de campagne. Un axe transversal pour penser le territoire » led by Cyril Boyer, Nicolas Novarina, Claire Rosset and Alexis Rousset.

6 In 2010, the exhibition « La Haute-Savoie en construction. 1860-2060, de la ville sarde au territoire transfrontalier » produced by the Conseil d’Architecture, d’Urbanisme et de l’Environnement (Architectural, Urbanism and Environmental Council) of the district of Haute-Savoie showed the specificity of urban growth Alpine furrow.

7 Homepage of the website of the « Projet d’Agglo » in 2012, April the 13rd ( at the moment of the vote for a new name for the region, then became “Grand Genève”.

8 As notes Claude Raffestin in the 70’s, the boder has a determining role in territory specification : « Une région frontalière peut donc être définie comme une aire dans laquelle se manifestent des effets dont l’origine est à rechercher dans la présence d’un cordon politique signalant une limite de souveraineté. » (Raffestin, 1974).

9 The metaphor of development in “glove fingers” is taken from Steen Eiler Rasmussen (1898 - 1990). Danish architect, prolific member of “Urban Planning Danish laboratory”, Rasmussen is at the basis of the process that led to the development of the “Finger Plan” in 1926, having governed the overall development of the suburbs of Copenhagen. This project included the installation of high-speed rail lines starting from the center of the Danish capital to its periphery. Their use as carriers for urbanization draws a town in the image of a hand with the palm is the compact city center, and fingers, the suburbs. Open spaces, thus created between the fingers were supposed to become farmland and reserves naturalness providing residents places of recreation.

10 In 1936, the “Plan de Zone” of the architect Maurice Braillard (architect and urban planner, 1879 Auvenier -1965 Geneva) already tried to “create the conditions for an exhibition of places and living practices of the past and present” (Lanza Cogato, 1998) through a landscape device for the entire canton of Geneva, including for the first time the Geneva countryside in urban planning for the city.

11 The though formulated by Bernardo Secchi and Paola Viganò through the idea of ville diffuse (diffused city) have been experimented in Venetie area and taken up within the Grand Paris.

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Claire Rosset et Alexis Rousset, « Cross-border area of Geneva region: a culture of alpine living », Journal of Alpine Research | Revue de géographie alpine [En ligne], 101-3 | 2013, mis en ligne le 26 mars 2014, consulté le 07 mars 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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Claire Rosset

Graduated of architecture, PhD student in architecture in the laboratory MHA-evt (ENSAG)

Alexis Rousset

Graduated of architecture

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La Revue de Géographie Alpine est mise à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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