Horizon Serono

Geneva, Switzerland
2004

Murphy / Jahn
www. murphyjahn. com

104 Horizon Serono | Geneva | Switzerland | Fig. 1 above | Fig. 2 opposite

The task for Murphy / Jahn was clear; to retain the existing historic buildings on the site and simultaneously establish a new identity and continuity throughout the complex plot. (Fig. 1, Fig. 3, Fig. 5)

The strategically designed link between old and new structures is the ‘Mainstreet’. This lively element is open to the weather along its length and sheltered at one end by an immense transparent curved screen windshield. This screen protects a wide plaza which is also covered by a cantilevered steel and glass canopy roof and bordered by new glazed building facades (Fig. 2, Fig. 9).

The plaza is sheltered, yet open and breathable, as the windshield is fitted with tall pivoting glass doors which are used to modulate the temperature inside. Similarly, the overhanging, counterbalanced glass canopy roof can be tilted open by hydraulic jacks (Fig. 11). Helmut Jahn compares this to the sun roof of a car.

The combined ventilation system is indeed reminiscent of those employed in early saloon cars
(i. e. balancing cooling air flow via pivoting quarter light windows and tilting / sliding sun roofs) prior to the introduction of high fuel consuming air conditioning units.

There is a constant movement of employees and visitors through the courtyards, bridges and hallways. The avenues and plazas are generously punctuated by trees redolent of the arboretums which border the adjacent Lac Leman.

This pleasant, communal environment was designed to help promote the interaction and collaboration between employees who were previously housed in separate sites.

The glazed building facades which form the sides of the avenues and plazas create an appropriate boundary between the internalised research and headquarters facilities and the more public open spaces. From within the building the working day is enhanced by the views afforded by the full height fenestration.

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The construction, appearance and performance of the new buildings reflect Serono’s scientific and technological ethos. Most evident is the use of daylight, natural ventilation and solar energy.

The strategy for heating and cooling includes utilising the nearby resource of Lac Leman. Lake water at a constant temperature is drawn and returned from a 30 metre depth and conditioned via heat exchangers or heat pumps to cool or warm the spaces within the buildings. Studies were undertaken at the Ecole Polytechnique of Lausanne to ensure that the returned water would not be detrimental to the lake’s ecosystem.

These naturally occurring resources are combined with high technology control systems to enable the building’s climate modulation. The result is a comfortable, pleasant place of work with low energy requirements and low emissions.

Murphy / Jahn’s “archigreen” mission statement commits the practice to environmental responsibility through the “elimination of the inessential”. The pared down approach to the
design of Horizon Serono has compound benefits, including the aesthetic continuity of the site’s protected industrial heritage.

The interiors of the new facility were carefully tempered and made livable through considered interior design strategies led by McKay and Partners of London.

The combination of engineering and architectural design is also evident in the facade systems employed at Horizon Serono (Fig. 13,14,15).

The facade’s glass panels are canted and overlapped like shingles. The overlap shields rain from the floor level ventilation flaps which are connected to the raised floor voids above the active structural floor slabs. The slabs are exposed to the underside.

Additionally, the overlapping glass covers a mechanism for operating the stainless steel external shades. The components for heating, cooling and shading are fully integrated into the building management system which allows some degree of local control by the building’s occupants.

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HORIZON SERONO Facade System 1.0