Ask anyone in Geneva for three words describing Confédération Centre and, more than likely, they will come up with: dark, dreary and drafty. Since it's opening in 1986, Genevans have never been particularly fond of this center, taken aback by its rather unattractive, austere architecture and questioning it's very existence :“do we really need a shopping mall on our high street?”.
However, all is allegedly about to change.... after over 10 years of endless negotiations between the various owners as well as the city of Geneva authorities, an agreement was finally reached and construction work on the “New” Confédération Centre, due to open in the fourth quarter of 2020, has begun.
The “New” Confédération Centre
Apparently we are in for a real treat! The centre is to be completely revamped into a vibrant, bustling premium affordable hub combining retail, food and entertainment, with a vision to urgently revive Geneva's town centre, both during the day and at night. As Horace de Saint Pierre, Associate Director of CBRE Switzerland/Retail likes to put it “We see Confédération Centre as the '3rd place'. After the home and the workspace, the centre is where friends and family will come together for a drink, a meal, some shopping or a good movie”.
Each floor will have a specific function. Genevans will be happy to learn that on the lower floor the Rex cinema, to be run by a local film group, will once again open its doors. The ground floor will make a statement with its large interactive screen drawing attention from the street and it's coffee shops, ideal for a quick break. The carefully thought out dynamic concept of the first floor, dedicated to retail, will offer an eclectic choice of some 15 spaces, with a focus on local and international brands, mostly not yet available in Geneva, as well as a creative space for affordable art, and some pop up stores.
A whirlwind of culinary delights
It is the second floor food space which will.however, most likely draw the biggest crowds of locals and tourists alike. According to Horace de Saint Pierre, the concept will be new to Geneva and will follow the trendy food court culture we are witnessing in most major cities worldwide. “There will be a mix of local and international food brands, take-aways, street food concepts and pop ups, mostly new to Geneva, offering a wonderful mix of colors, flavors and styles, 7 days a week until late at night.” It is important to add that the renowned Brasserie LIPP, which is exceptionally remaining open throughout the work, will of course be integrated in the concept.
Let there be light
But is it realistically possible to transform this unwelcoming space into somewhere where Genevans and tourists will want to flock? Ramseier & Associates Ltd., the Zurich-based firm who won the architectural tender, had to face a number of challenges in relation to the initial structure of the centre, but have come up with a solution which focuses mainly on bringing much needed light and warmth into this enclosed space through clever artificial lighting and by encasing the ceilings and walls in curved pale laminate wood, which will complement the industrial look of the metal columns and reworked mat terrazzo floors, ultimately giving a refined urban finish and atmosphere to the centre.
The project is an exciting one, but will it be enough to pump into Geneva's town centre the energy it desperately needs and contribute to transforming the area and bringing it to life 24/7? Everyone hopes so, but only the future will tell whether the “new” Confédération centre will truly have the impact it foresees.