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Type: Headquarters, Office

Size: 731,950 sq ft / 68,000 m

Height: 7 floors

Status: Completed 2006

Collaborators: Werner Sobek, Matthias Schuler

Recognition: AIA Chicago Chapter Award; ASPAN‑SP Prize Energy; TetraEner European Commission Concerto Award; Leonard Wards Trophy; Prix Acier Swiss Steel Award

Merck Serono has long been recognized as a leading European biotech company. Completed in 2006, its new corporate headquarters, located within an old industrial area of Geneva known as the Secheron, reinforces the company’s long legacy and creates room for future growth. The building’s design responds to emerging trends for interdisciplinary biomedical research with the expressed programmatic requirement of flexible, transparent, light-filled workspaces for research and business groups.

The essence of Jahn’s solution is the development of forum spaces: social magnets for spontaneous interactions and idea sharing. A network of open, covered, or convertible spaces is threaded through the campus like a public diagram of streets. The communal spaces radiate from the central forum, with its operable roof and large pivoting doors blurring the boundary between inside and outside. The connectivity at the ground is continued at the upper levels with bridges, open stairs, and glazed elevators. Meanwhile, landscaping, which transitions seamlessly from the exterior to the interior, reinforces the goals of connectivity and placemaking.

Different than the twin-shell façades of earlier projects, this envelope seeks to perform similar functions with simpler means of execution. The overlapping glass of the single-shell shingled façade introduces a weather-protected rolling stainless steel exterior sunshade. Controlled by four roof-mounted weather stations, these shades automatically deploy based on the solar exposure of each façade. In conjunction with the shades, high-performance argon-filled low-e-coated glazing reduces thermal transmission.

The use of advanced technologies such as exterior metal mesh roller shades, natural ventilation flaps, an operable roof, and geothermal energy allows the campus to be extremely transparent yet sustainable. Vents, doors, and operable roofs open and close to passively condition internal spaces. An estimated 70% of the energy consumed on-site is renewable, with the main source being nearby Lake Geneva, which provides about half the energy required. The project efficiently provides a multitude of spatial and programmatic experiences for this dynamic biotech campus.

The rich mix of uses for offices, headquarters functions, laboratories, restaurants and cafés, shops, meeting points, auditorium, conference center, library, fitness, and daycare allowed us to create a lively campus of buildings that are varied yet maintain a continuous language.

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