Sunday, 21 December 2008

Turning NGO’s into brands in the Geneva area

Edited version first pulished on Swisster on 13.12.08
This is the original article.

A small revolution is taking place in the Geneva area. International and non-governmental organizations are adopting brand and marketing strategies to advocate their values. What appeared to be a savvy trend before the present economic turmoil may now become a necessity.

International organizations in the not-for-profit sector are competing against a growing number of worthy causes and the Geneva area is home to the highest density of them in the world. Their ability to sustain institutional and private goodwill will depend increasingly on how they stand out. But this kind of branding is not about logos, it’s about improving internal perceptions.

John Kidd, Corporate Communications Manager at the IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, says that because the world is more competitive “you can’t get by if you send out confused signals”. As early as 2004, he realized that even within his organization there was “a big gap in common understanding”.

Kidd set out to build his organization’s identity in a process that he refers to as “deep branding”. The essence, passion and values were there, but they needed to be clarified and brought into focus. Only then could the internal business practices begin to reflect those values coherently.

The IUCN turned to the Geneva office of Young & Rubicam to pilot its efforts. Sue Mizera, Managing Director of Young & Rubicam Business Consultants and an expert in branding and brand positioning told Swisster “Organisations do understand that they are brands, but they lack the necessary tools and training to tell their story.”

This is a story that must permeate all the layers inside the organization before it can cross national and cultural frontiers. Feng Min Kan, Senior Coordinator for Advocacy and Outreach unit of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction admits that her organization faces a crucial moment. Because of the complexity of the issues at stake and the need to increase the efficiency of processes with “multi-stakeholders”, her unit too has turned to the marketing agency for help.

The patented methodology used by Young & Rubicam to extract “the story” is the Octagon. It is built on the premise that intangibles can be equity and when coaxed out, can produce strong brands. “If it’s powerful inside, it’s powerful outside” explains Mizera. The novelty of the approach is that it can help build partnerships around core values, including with the commercial world.

What is goodwill doing in bed with the devil, asked Swisster? Feng Min Kan retorted that “We are all marketing people, one way or the other.” And when the IUCN and Shell work together to redirect a pipeline in order to preserve biodiversity, they are “over-lapping their Octagons” said Kidd. In fact, many Shell employees have an NGO background.

Sometimes the brand precedes the story. The red cross and red crescent emblems were created more than fifty years before the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies was formed in 1919 and have remained the universal symbols of its values. Bekele Gelata, the recently appointed Secretary General, declared in an interview to le Temps that his Federation uses its strong branding to accomplish “humanitarian diplomacy”, but now wants it to help transform the very habits that are provoking the disasters, including climatic.

“To remain relevant and accessible to all, the IFRC must embrace new ideas and technology”, adds Pierre Kremer, Head of Communication. He recognizes the importance of partnerships that are a way of reaching new audiences “particularly the young people who will be the humanitarian leaders of tomorrow”.

The appeal to the young raises the question of whether organizations - including in the business world - that are capable of communicating and sustaining their values remain more attractive. Several young people questioned for this article declared that a sense of positive ownership was more important to them than financial rewards.

Sue Mizera is adamant that companies and organizations should not be reducing their branding efforts during the economic downturn, but doubling them. The ones that understand this, she said, will come out better.

Related links:

International Union for Conservation of Nature

UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Young & Rubicam

DJ’s mix with classical violins to ignite the interest of the young

Published on Swisster on 10.12.08

A novel alliance between a hot dance club and a classical chamber orchestra is about to be launched in Lausanne. “Noces” takes place on Wednesday at the Métropole and the MAD. Over 30 year-olds, please abstain.

Pronounce the words classical music and the I-Pod generation usually responds with a grunt or a smirk. Getting them to take an interest in what goes on in classical concert halls is a problem facing orchestras the world over. Programmers and administrators are looking for solutions that need to be playful and attractive.

The USA has led the way by mixing classical and electro, Germany has followed with the Berlin Philharmonic organizing concerts with non-professional singers and only last week the Scala in Milan reserved a performance of the opera “Don Carlos” for under 26-year olds only.

Not to be left behind, Switzerland has come up with its own program, albeit one initiated by an American in Zurich. David Zinman, at the head of the famed Tonhalle orchestra has been organizing concert-discos under the label of “Tonehalle-Late” for the last six years. And always to a full house. 1’600 young adults pack the hall, discovering for the first time Ravel’s Bolero or Beethoven’s Fifth without a rap beat. But that doesn’t keep them from tapping along with their feet.

Noces is a dare-devil marriage made in Lausanne. The Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, known as OCL, is recognized as one of today’s best chamber orchestras. The Moulin à Danse, known as the MAD, is a trendy venue that has contributed to building Lausanne’s reputation as the clubbing capital of Switzerland. Together, they have put together an evening meant to rapture and electrify.

The evening begins at 8 p.m. in the foyer of Lausanne’s landmark Metropole concert hall with an hour long DJ performance by Igor Blaska of the MAD. Then the wonderfully engaging Christian Zacharias will lead the OCL through a program of Vivaldi (Concerto for four violins), Johann Sebastian Bach (the unusual Concerto for four pianos), finishing off with a piece, Noces (The Wedding, also for four pianos), that Igor Stravinski composed when he was living in Morges around 1917.

The audience will then be ushered out of the Metropole, across the street in the Flon to the MAD, where the cult DJ, Mr. Mike will be joined by two brave musicians from the OCL.

An evening of new cultural frontiers for the price of a pizza. And no old foggys.

Swiss artist, Sylvie Fleury, lights up Geneva's culture scene

Published 29.11.08

Breaking all records of attendance, a retrospective at the MAMCO in Geneva of a contemporary Swiss artist shows that Sylvie Fleury is more than just an art fashionista. She is a master in contemporary iconography.

Hub caps and shopping bags are amongst Sylvie Fleury obsessions and they play a large part in her show at Geneva’s Modern and Contemporary Art Museum (Mamco). So do high heels, neons and mushrooms.

You can’t help feel that Fleury’s show has come at just the right time. Her exuberance is an instant antidote to the reigning gloom. The exhibition may not have set out to be joyful, but it is. It’s like walking into a contemporary Alice’s Wonderland, with undersized rockets instead of flower pots and oversized popcorn instead of hats.

Is she being playful, or is she being perverse? Symbols of consumerism and glamour mix with the vestiges of crash tests and punctured Gucci bags. In mesmerizing videos, creatures of extraordinary beauty wash a 1960’s car in stiletto heels or drift around a mechanics work shop. Real-sized demolition cars are bright pink, red or purple, as if laquered with lady's nail polish.

And everywhere you look large neon messages remind us to “Be amazing” and “That every minute is special” or to “Soothe” “Lighten” or “Purify”. There is even a purpose-built catwalk above a furry white floor and visitors, as they advance one step at a time, admit to feeling like stars the time it takes to cross the room.

The suggestive qualities of the exhibition provoke a form of escapism not unlike that of a spiritual experience. Marcel Duchamp’s transfiguration of everyday objects is considered art at the second degree, but he never had much of a sense of humor. With Sylvie Fleury, we enter art at the third level, because there is a constant reminder of irony in her use of epoxy and sequins. Art may never be the same again, but the real fun is that Fleury seems to be telling us that it's all a big spoof.

Entitled Sequins and Dependencies or the Fascination of Oblivion, the show occupies all four floors of the museum and runs until 29 January. Children are flocking there with their parents.

A Green politician, GPS & art

Published on 22.11.08

Geneva’s Green magistrate, Patrice Mugny, talks to Swisster about mapping a different Geneva.

When a magistrate speaks with pride about making culture more accessible, our thoughts immediately drift to the price of a ticket for an exhibition or a concert. But when Patrice Mugny mentions accessibility, he’s not just talking about money. Mugny is an elected member of the five-person Executive Council of the City of Geneva and a representative of the Green party.

During his tenure as the Director of Culture, Mugny has initiated a major transformation of the cultural landscape. He has obtained from the City Parliament a unanimous approval for a credit line of CHF 3 million to adapt the 51 cultural buildings in Geneva to the needs of the physically challenged, still called the handicapped in this part of the world.

Taking into account those, amongst others, who have broken a limb, are hard of hearing or are confined to a wheel chair, that’s 10% of the population.

To illustrate the obstacles encountered by the physically impaired in their everyday life, Mugny commissioned a Catalan multimedia artist. Antoni Abad had created a similar project in Barcelona, as well as with various other populations in different cities. He provided participants with mobile telephones equipped with GPS. The mobility obstacles that they identified and photographed have been compiled on an interactive website and were the subject of an exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Geneva.

Patrice Mugny is jealously loyal to his city, despite being disillusioned about the role he can play. He speaks of a Geneva that is truly international, “one of the ten most famous cities in the world” and yet intensely local. A tradition of anarchy, the continued influence of the hard left and an unusual tolerance for squats make it a city of many paradoxes.

The funds allocated to culture are extremely generous and represent more than a fifth of the city’s budget. With CHF 220 million to spend every year, you’d think that Mugny would be free to make bold proposals. But his hands are tied. With a touch of cynicism, he says that subsidies are allocated essentially to “preserve social peace”, to perpetrate a cultural status quo, not to reward quality or new enterprises.

He speaks enviously of his counterparts in Barcelona or Lyons who have initiated and completed great cultural projects. In Switzerland, he muses, a politician has virtually no power at all.

In a compelling analysis on the role that the media are playing in Swiss democracy, Mugny recently wrote (Le Temps, La tyrannie de l’opinion et la faiblesse de l’information, 1.09.08) that the immediacy of information is influencing the outcome the way people vote. The sense of constant urgency, stoked by the web, means that there is no time to think issues through, let alone accompany complex political projects. Choices are often dictated by emotion.

Patrice Mugny is considered an outsider and it’s not difficult to see why. He does not pander to alliances, and is the first to decry the process of recourses that slows everything down, to the point of inertia. He acknowledges that his own Green party is notoriously obstructive, but slyly points out that it usually wins.

Because he has decided to leave office in two and a half years, at the end of his second term, Mugny will not have time to assist the completion of some of the projects he launched.

If the extension of the Ethnographic Museum in Geneva will at last see the light of day after so many years, it is only because, says the magistrate with resignation and irony, it will be almost entirely underground.

As for the extension of the Art and History Museum (see Swisster article), observers have been astonished that Mugny accepts the idea that it will be half financed by private funds. In Lausanne, the opponents to the construction of a new museum shrilly maintain that private funds mean selling your soul to the devil. “Genevans have a history of giving generously” say Mugny, “We’re not going to turn CHF 40 million away”.

To highlight yet another paradox, Patrice Mugny asks in how many cities in the world can you go to the opera for CHF 29, or for as little as CHF 9, if you qualify for the culture vouchers given to tax payers with low incomes by the State of Geneva?

Mugny has been a mason, a welder, a trade unionist, an actor, a musician, a journalist, before leading the Swiss Green party at national level and becoming a fulltime politician. It will be interesting to discover what he will become next.

The website of the Culture Department of the City of Geneva is partially in English.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Will Vaud be allowed to build a new cantonal fine arts museum?

A plan to move the Musée des Beaux Arts in Lausanne from old premises in the city center to new ones by the lake is being contested by referendum and will be put to the vote on 30th November.

It is the combat of David against Goliath. On the one side, a tiny committee successfully gathered more than the necessary signatures to counter a decision already voted and approved by the State Parliament. On the other, the entire state apparatus is sparing no expense to counter the resulting referendum.

The issue at stake is whether Vaud will at last be able to build a new museum. On the face of it, the population is only being asked if it accepts a credit of CHF 390’000 to finalize the selected architectural project. This is even before it can go to public enquiry.

In actual fact, if the credit is refused, the project, which was started in 1991, will be shelved. Although four of the six political parties with representatives at State level have come out in favor of Bellerive, and despite a massive promotional campaign by innumerable public figures, the feeling is that the vote will be a close call, with no one taking bets on the outcome.

The Ying-Yang design, by the young architects Berrel & Kräutler from Zurich, is conceived to fit a piece of land by the lake in the shape of a trapezoid. It was chosen among the 249 entries of an international contest in 2004, mainly because it offers an internal circulation that allows patrimonial (Ying) and contemporary (Yang) art works to dialogue.

Virtual image of the land as it is, and as it would be with the selected architectural project

The arguments against the project concern its exterior appearance, which is considered too massive, but more importantly, the fact that is by the lakeside.

An artist’s interpretation of the impact of the lakeside project

The referendum committee maintains that museums belong in the city centre. Although its members do not exclude other locations, they have unveiled extension plans extension plans for the exiguous Palais Rumine, which would – hurrah – cover part of the Place Riponne.

Project for an extension to the present location on Place Riponne

The problem with those plans, retorts the pro-lobby group, is the cost, possibly as high as building a new museum by the lake. First of all Place Riponne is hollow because of the underground car park and could not, without structural works of some magnitude, receive a building on its surface. Secondly, the private funds raised specifically for the construction in Bellerive could not be transferred to this alternative.

In the event of an extension to Rumine, the entire cost, guessed to be around CHF 50 million, would need to be covered by public funds. In the case of Bellerive, only half of the budget would come from tax payers’ money, since CHF 35 million would also come from the sponsors and donors who want a new building.

The referendum committee fires back two arguments. If the fine arts museum is moved out of Rumine, the state will still have to pay the transformation costs for whatever replaces it. The second argument is more ideological. Our Davids are also combating public-private partnerships, which they believe, are tantamount to selling your soul to the corporate devil.

The outcome of the battle may depend on the public’s perception and sympathy for the underdog. They are a heterogeneous bunch, covering an unusually large political spectrum, from the extreme left to the liberal greens. Some muse that the advanced age of the standard bearers, many who are now retired, explains the fact that it has taken them 17 years to get their act together to oppose a project now in its final stage and that has already cost the canton hundreds of thousands of francs.

The campaign has been acrimonious, each party accusing the other of being deceitful, especially with respect to the appearance and volume of the planned construction. Furthermore, the economic downturned is being used as an argument by both parties, one saying that expenditures must be halted, the other saying that a new museum would be a strong economic signal.

And there has even been some violence towards the end: the pro information caravan on the parcel of land in Bellerive was recently ransacked.

Ironically, an initiative against the right of recourse of environmental associations against public decisions, qualified as obstructionism, will also be put to ballot on 30th November. It will be the object of another Swisster article.

Related Swisster articles on this particular topic:
Vaud museum battle heads for the ballot box - 11/07/08
Artists shed spotlight on Vaud's fine arts museum - 19/07/08

Additional information relating to the issue:
A number of conferences, debates and events leading up to the vote have taken place. Your Swisster correspondent attended many of them, although it must be said that attendees had invariably already made up their minds.

- Florian Rodari, curator of the Planque collection, presented the works by Picasso, Cezanne, Degas, Van Gogh and Klee that are promised to the museum only if it moves to Bellerive. The collection of 20th century art was built by the now deceased Jean Planque, a Vaudois who advised the prestigious Beyeler Foundation in Basel for many years.

Pablo Picasso, Le Sauvetage, 1933, Collection Fondation Jean et Suzanne Planque

Pablo Picasso, Femme au chapeau dans un fauteuil, 1939, Collection Fondation Jean et Suzanne Planque

- The architect and urbanist, Ariane Widmer, sees in the plan an opportunity for Lausanne to give a strong cultural and educational identity to its lakeside from the EPFL to the Olympic Museum, via IMD.

- The city of Lausanne Is examining solutions - including a draw bridge over the ungainly Sagrave gravel site - to link Bellerive with the M2 in Ouchy. The environmental impact of a museum outside the city centre has been one of the major arguments against the lakeside project.

- The current Steinlen exhibition (until 25 January), dedicated to a local artist ( a contemporary of Toulouse Lautrec) who met with fame in Paris, is meant to remind the public of its rich artistic heritage, of which only a small part can be visible in its current premises. More than 8’000 works belong to the museum, but only 2% are visible at a time and the rest are kept in conditions that do not meet the minimal requirements for the storage of works of art.

Dans la Rue, Couverture pour Aristide Bruant, 1895, private collection © Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts / Ducret

Sunday, 9 November 2008


Fast becoming a small Mecca for dance, the region between Geneva and Vevey is home to a growing number of stylish choreographers. Philippe Saire, whose latest production runs until November 23, is one of them.

Photo Jean-Bernard Sieber

If your last memory of contemporary dance is Merce Cunningham, whose dancers glide and swivel to the half-silent music of John Cage, it may be time for an up-date. Dance has come a long way since then.

Alexandra Macdonald, Photo Mario del Curto

Dancers, until recently, were essentially fashioned by the choreographic style of the school or company to which they belonged. They entered into dance religion at an early age and returned to real life when, basically, they couldn’t dance anymore. But times have changed. There is a growing population of dancers who have degrees in areas that have nothing to do with dance and choreographers who have first worked in other forms of art.

Mike Winter and Pablo Esbert Lilienfeld, Photo erias

Cross fertilization produces the kind of dance for which Philippe Saire is known. His productions tend to be highly theatrical, with dancers of supreme dramatic or comical power. The show currently taking place in his Théâtre Du Sévelin - on the perimeter of the throbbing Flon district of Lausanne – is exactly that. “Il faut que je m’absente” (I really have to go now) is Saire’s second installment of a trilogy on entertainment and, in this case, disappearing (as in magical acts), or as he puts it more quaintly, dis-appearing.

The reference to American musicals and imagery is constant in this production. In the same way that entertainment in the US boomed following both world wars and worked as an antidote to the horror and loss, there is much of the same balancing act in Saire’s latest creation. It is like Frank Sinatra being directed by Tim Burton in a Las Vegas show at Abou Ghraib.

The dancers are stupendous. Their bodies work in mysterious and sometimes complicated ways, but what is most striking are their faces. They engage in constant communication with the audience, their expressions, and sometimes words, appealing to our emotions. This is not dance as is should be, but it is dance as we like it.

Mickaël Henrotay Delaunay, Photo erias

Alexandra Macdonald, who hails from down under, camps a delicious Betty Boop, all felinity and femininity. Her partners are Mickaël Henrotay Delaunay, a shyly shattering Johnny Depp look-alike, Mike Winter, Matthieu Guénégou, Violeta Todo Gonzalez and Pablo Esbert Lilienfeld, none of them Swiss. Pablo’s luminous energy in engaging our sympathy is irresistible.

Alexandra Macdonald, Photo erias

If you are ready for dance at the crossroad of theatre and music hall, but with a zest of zeitgeist, Philippe Saire's shows are for you.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Mario Botta, world-famous architect, reflects on our future

Botta, Berg Arosa, photo Urs Homberger

Mario Botta, the Swiss architect of international fame, made a stop this week in Lausanne to give a conference on “Architecture & Environment”. To a spellbound audience, he delivered a startling interpretation on how globalization is insulating architecture from its environment. With his own designs, qualified as both earthy and spiritual, Botta goes against this trend.

TATA Offices, India, photo by Enrico Cano

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Evry Cathedral , the Kyobo Tower in Seoul, or Museum Jean Tinguely in Basel are some of the iconic buildings designed by Mario Botta. The 65 year-old Ticino-born architect, who was once an assistant to Le Courbusier, believes that “good architecture is measured by the intensity of its relationship with the site on which it stands.”

The anchored geometry of Botta’s buildings is immediately recognizable, the materials he uses are invariably the same and yet each project is profoundly singular. No building, says he, can be reproduced in a different environment without losing its meaning.

The word “meaning” was at the heart of the talk. Botta qualifies present-day architecture as being often too “abstract”, dictated by innovation rather than evolving in response to our social and cultural heritage. “Why do we try to make buildings fly, when we should, on the contrary, be working with the powerful forces of gravity?”

MoMA, San Francisco, photo by Pino Musi

Globalization, he fears, is producing buildings that are not adapted to their specific environments and even less to the demands of different climates. Our dependency on energy has become too great.

Asked what he thought about sustainable development, Botta bowed his head and smiled before he answered. His own “massive” architecture, made essentially of stone that weathers well and protects from the climate, is already an answer, says he.

Good architecture, he reminds us, has always been in equilibrium with nature. Not a house in the past, not even a peasant’s abode, was ever built without a patio, an entrance, a hall that acted as a filter… Now, transitional spaces have all but disappeared and walls are designed to be razor-thin.

Kyobo tower photo by Young Chea Park

But don’t think a moment that Botta is an aging nostalgic. He comes across as a man who has found a different way of dealing with his beliefs. He also made his audience laugh. He refused to be drawn into the bitter architectural debates that take place in this part of the world as soon as there is a new project. He offered to be appointed Mayor of Lausanne instead. Rules, regulations and constraints in construction can actually inspire great architecture, he said.

Almost to prove this point, he showed a number of examples of his hallmark, geometric shapes that give no indication from the outside that they are open to the sky. They are the sources of the carved, natural lighting that gives his buildings an internal uplift and that makes Botta a young architect at heart. See, for example, the Church of San Volto in Turin, St John the Baptist in Mogno, in the Ticino, or the Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul.

Church of St John the Baptist, Mogno, Switzerland

MART museum, Rovereto, Italy, photo by Pino Musi

“Buildings should last” said Botta “so they can be used differently by our descendants.” By introducing notions of permanence into present-day architecture, Mario Botta’s message suddenly appears positively futuristic.

Santo Volto, Turin, photo by Enrico Cano

Sunday, 21 September 2008


Jean Tschumi, 1960 © Acm-EPFL

Jean Tschumi with his son, Bernard, 1946 © Bernard Tschumi Architects

Tschumi, La Vaudoise, Lausanne, circa 1957 - © ACM-EPFL


The name Tschumi is no doubt familiar to those who work at the headquarters of Nestlé in Vevey, of Debiopharm in Lausanne, or at the World Health Organization in Geneva. The timeless elegance of these buildings testifies to the genius of a Swiss architect who stood outside the conventions of the post-war era. Now, a lovingly composed retrospective at Archizoom, an exhibition and conference space at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, retraces his too-brief career.

Tschumi, Nestlé Headquarters, Vevey

Great architecture stands the test of time. So when Bernard Tschumi was recently congratulated by the current owners of the former André building in Lausanne for such a wonderful design, he had a reason to smile: it was his father, not he, who in 1959 designed the futuristic structure that now serves as the headquarters for Debiopharm. Even today, it is difficult to believe that the perfect triangle seven stories tall, pointing towards the lake and delicately framed by regal cedars, is half a century old.

Tschumi, André & Cie, 1960 - siavd

On the occasion of the inauguration of the exhibition dedicated to Jean Tschumi on 18 September, his son, Bernard Tschumi, a world renowned architect is his own right, spoke tellingly of how his father never entered into the confrontational dialectics of architectural schools. While Modernism was attempting to tear the teaching of architecture out of the Beaux Arts, and when Post-Modernism was pitted against Constructivism, Jean Tschumi, travelling between Paris and Lausanne, quietly explored the potential of the new construction materials.

It is precisely Jean Tschumi’s capacity to allow materials to speak for themselves that explains what Bernard qualifies as the sensuality of his buildings. The designs are not capricious, ostentatious or exuberant. Instead, Tschumi worked closely with the site constructors to create outlines that reflected and enhanced the landscape. Who has not marveled at the lake-transparency of Tschumi halls rendered possible by girders of phenomenal strength? Corporate functionalism meets Kundera’s Lightness of Being…

Tschumi’s work is “mass that takes to the sky,” said Inès Lamunière, new director of EPFL’s architecture department. The department is a descendant of one founded by Tschumi when architecture was still attached to Lausanne University. He taught at a time when architecture was not yet held hostage to a public enquiry process that leads to endless compromises. The simple beauty of his designs reminds us of what can be accomplished when architecture is allowed to be bold.

The exhibition "Jean Tschumi Architecture Full Scale" makes us discover a great polymath whose breadth of talent and interests spanned many areas and skills, something that his son believes was possible when the practice of architecture was “simpler”. It includes feather-light pencilings by an artist who designed furniture and the interiors of the famous ocean liner, the Normandie, at the same time as he developed grand plans of urbanism for Lausanne.

Nestlé, Vevey - Photographie Eric Ed. Guignard, 1960 © Acm-EPFL

In 1962, just short of his 58th birthday, Tschumi’s heart stopped on a night train between Paris and the Swiss frontier. And yet, through his buildings, he continues to defy time. Bernard Tschumi, whose own Flon Transit Centre will be put into operation in October when the M2 metro starts running at long last in Lausanne, or his New Acropolis Museum is finally inaugurated in Athens in February 2009, offers a father a great tribute. He has become the guardian of Jean Tschumi’s sensual intemporatlity.

The Exhibition "Jean Tschumi Architecture Full Scale" is curated by Jacques Gubler and the Archives de la construction moderne, EPFL

18 September - 24 October 2008
Monday to Friday 9am - 6pm,
Saturday 10am - 5pm


Tschumi, La Vaudoise, Lausanne © La Vaudoise

27 September during La Nuit des Musées
15:30 - a free bicycle tour organized by Lausanne Architectures will begin at LausanneRoule, Place de L'Europe
16:30 - a guided tour of two Tschumi landmarks that starts at La Vaudoise Assurances, Av. de Cour 41, followed by the university auditorium next door.

2 October at Archizoom

In order to keep the Tschumi buildings in synch with the technological demands of the 22nd Century, they have undergone extensive internal refurbishing. During a conference at Archizoom on 2 October at 18:00, Richter & Dahl Rocha from Lausanne will present their restauration of the famous Nestlé building in Vevey and Devanthéry & Lamunière from Geneva will talk of their renovation of the superb Lausanne University Auditorium.

Images '08 - Written 08.09.08

© Reiner Riedler, Artificial Holidays, 2007

© Julia Fullerton-Batten, Teenage Stories, 2005

© Guillaume Reymond, Transformers, 26.08.08

© Peter Garfield, Mobile Home 1994

Images are to Vevey, what jazz is to Montreux and classical music is to Lucerne. Kicking off on 11 September, Images '08 will again celebrate Vevey’s pivotal role in photography and the visual arts. But when in Vevey, you won’t need to go to this year’s biennale, it will come to you. The entire city landscape will be spiked with dreamy images and inspiring events in an art free-for-all that takes place over 20 days until 30 September.

Branded “City of Images”, Vevey is home to a photography school and a camera museum, as well as the Swiss National Centre of Drawings - which now extends to cartoons and comic strips - at the Jenisch Museum. To anchor its reputation in this field, Vevey launched the Images festival in 1995, but recent editions attracted mainly the cognescenti. Now, Stefano Stoll, the city’s cultural delegate and festival director, wants “art to be at the heart of everyday life” and to come to us. He has chosen a theme for this year’s edition that is clearly designed to put us in(side) the picture. A play on the word “Scale”- as in models, in life, in relationships and in movement - is the driving idea behind the festival.

A teaser took place on 26th August, when Guillaume Reymond of You Tube fame – his Tetris has now been viewed over 12 million times since it won the 2007 You Tube Creativity Awards – engineered a monumental Spielberg look-alike Transformer on Vevey’s main square. Seen at ground level, the fleet of the commune’s utility vehicles looked like they were lining up for a crooked parade. But as filmed from a zeppelin above, the orchestration suddenly made visual sense as a Transformer emerged from the frozen motorcade.

The festival takes place all over Vevey, with several happenings programmed on the first weekend. The exhibitions, inside and outdoors, last for the duration of the festival.

The outdoor exhibitions, dotted around the city, present large-scaled images by more than 20 photographers, some of world fame.

Julia Fullerton-Batten’s silent teenage girls in gleaming undersized decors still adorn the Teen City poster for the current (and unrelated) exhibition at the Elysée Museum in Lausanne. The British artist is raking in international prizes for her exquisite and telling compositions.

Reiner Riedler’s Artificial Holidays has Superman flying past the Kremlin and an indoor skiing hall in Dubai. Defeating gravity, Denis Darzacq’s Icaruses tend to fall sideways or upwards, whereas Vincent Fournier‘s astronaut appears to be inconveniently glued to flock wallpaper. There is an element of pathos and comicality in all these pictures.

The same cannot be said of two major American artists whose works are prominently featured. Chris Jordan, a lawyer by trade, transforms the horrors of mass consumption into patterns of obsessive beauty. His spent bullet casings and discarded mobile phones, in Jackson-Pollock-like scatterings, will be visible at the Vevey train station, but take a look on his web site at the worrying constellations of Barbies and serpents of disposable plastic cups.

In an ominous foretelling to the subprime crisis, Peter Garfield’s flying mobile homes, about to crash and disintegrate, appear in monumental form on the side of a silo in Vevey that will soon also disappear. In addition, a solo exhibition is fittingly, and humorously, housed under the Medeival gables of the Musée Historique de Vevey.

Gilbert Garcin at the Galerie Clément is another must. A Magritte-like figure stands in dull poses in enigmatic matchbox environments that look like they will shatter at the slightest move. Garcin is an 80 year-old former lampshade factory director whose retirement has become a shop floor for creativity.

Images ’08 naturally includes a film program at the Rex Cinema that is celebrating its 75th birthday. With a tribute to funny films, including by Vevey’s most famous former inhabitant, as well as pictures that feature photographers as their heroes, the shows at the Rex will be the only part of the festival with an entrance fee (CHF 10).

Last but not least, international contests crown the laureates of the European Grand Prix of First Films , as well as the Vevey International Grand Prix of Photography.

Stoll is a proponent of creative art and intelligent patronage. He belongs to a rare breed of cultural managers who not only speaks, but acts. He recently caused a stir by responding indignantly to declarations of negative fatalism proffered by the Director of Pro Helvetia, the equivalent of the Arts Council. The ensuing cultural debate seems to have sent the wheels into gear, especially at federal level.

The urban branding of Vevey as “A city of images” preceded him, but Stoll has given it greater relevance, including by positioning Vevey as a film location paradise. This year’s edition of Images ’08 is meant to seduce and will no doubt prove that art can be popular, unpretentious, fun and enlightening.

Thursday, 28 August 2008


He may look like the perfect son-in-law, but Fabien Ruf, the Head of the Cultural Services of Lausanne, is not afraid to rock the boat. In just over a year, he has challenged the grants allocation process, is fighting to gain acceptance of culture as an economic driver and is now on a campaign to culturally charm the two out of five foreigners who make up the population of Lausanne.

When Fabien Ruf was appointed in June 2007, his nomination raised a few eyebrows. A young technocrat was to succeed an arts passionara, Marie-Claude Jequier, whose reign over 20 years had made Lausanne one of the culturally significant small cities of the world. Ruf recognizes a heritage that includes the Ballet Béjart, the Lausanne Opera and the Théâtre de Vidy, although he then adds that “Times have changed”. Lausanne must uphold its reputation, but a number of important choices must be made in order to prevent quality dilution and audience fatigue.

Breaking away from the mould, Mr. Culture is looking for economic viability, as well as originality. He argues that culture is not a one-way expenditure, but an investment that yields good financial returns. For this reason, grants will no longer be attributed according to sole artistic merit, since sustainability will also be an important criterion. Additionally, he wants to see more cooperation between neighboring cities and the region as a whole, particularly in the field of dance and opera.

The upshot of thinking along new cultural management lines means that Fabien Ruf has been accused of being a philistine. He however defends the view that culture is an essential component of civilization and that it will always need strong public support to exist. On a more pragmatic level, he embraces the concept of “urban marketing”, of which culture is one of its pillars, along with education, sports and sustainable development. He is careful to point out that Lausanne’s cultural programme is reasonably priced and that many events are offered for free (Festival de la Cité, Fête de la Musique, Lausanne Estivale). He adds that good public transportation makes all venues accessible, which is more than most cities can boast. He should know: he doesn’t own a car.

Fabien Ruf does, however, have a cultural problem of his own: he works and lives in a canton where the Protestant agrarian ethos forbids bragging: We know that we are good, but we can’t say so. For someone whose job is to promote Vaud, where does that leave him? He declares unashamedly that we live in one of the most privileged regions in the world, but one that can’t sell itself.

And yet, in terms of marketing strategy, “It’s a win, win situation” he says of Lausanne’s attractive offer and the presence of so many multinationals. Creative environments attract creative people, but neither the tourism office, nor the DEV - the branch of the economic department whose role is to attract foreign companies – seem to understand this message, so he would like to take things in hand. He is planning to propose a custom-tailored “Discovery Culture Passport” to various companies. Some will prefer a youthful offer that could include, for example, the MUDAC, the design museum, the DOCKS, for the new rock scene and the ARSENIC for adventurous theatre and dance. Others will be looking for corporate entertainment opportunities and will prefer the LAUSANNE OPERA, the ORCHESTRE DE CHAMBRE DE LAUSANNE and the FONDATION DE L’HERMITAGE. Ruf is convinced that employees are happier and more productive when they also have a life outside of their professional shell. Conversely, he believes that good art projects help enhance Lausanne’s reputation abroad and reflect well on the companies who have chosen to be here.

More pressing issues await him however. He has devised an ambitious five-year plan that will be put to a political test when the gradual CHF 3 million increase in funding that he is requesting will be submitted this autumn to the city parliament. In this plan, he dares propose solutions for Lausanne’s urban nightmare, the Place de la Riponne, with a theatre for children and an interdisciplinary cultural centre. If he succeeds, and obtains the credits to revitalize the center, the separate debate leading to the vote on 30th November on the art museum might be less acrimonious. Those who fear the displacement of the museum away from Riponne and down to the lake by Bellerive might feel assuaged.

Lausanne’s claim to cultural fame appeared to be jeopardized with the progressive loss of important figureheads, including Maurice Béjart. But now, with a clear resolve to face the future and a finger on the pulse of the young, Lausanne’s cultural ambassador is taking a deep breath of satisfaction, even if he’s not allowed to show it.

Bex & Arts


Every three years, a property that belonged to the daughter of a British Peer becomes the pastoral Alpine setting for an entertaining outdoor art exhibition. Bex & Arts, a triennial that takes place until 28 September, showcases sculpture in the stunning environment of an undulating park at the base of the Alps. Less than half an hour from Lausanne in the direction of the Valais, centenary trees become the framework of imaginative contemporary installations.

Bought in 1835 as a thermal retreat by Lady Louisa Hope, the daughter of the Earl of Winchilsea and the widow of a British General, the property was eventually donated to the Vaud Canton by the descendant of a Hungarian aristocrat, Jules de Szilassy, who had married into the family and whose wealth, in the fifties, had been lost to political misfortune.

Since 1987, the sculptural gathering initiated in 1979 by the Swiss artist, André Raboud, takes place on the magnificent domain of 80’000 m² (20 acres) and now attracts more than 25’000 visitors during each edition. Raboud’s son, Nicolas, the present curator, has put together a panorama of Swiss sculpture that is both ambitious and immensely engaging. On the ambiguous theme of “Laschiami” (“Leave me”, or “Leave me alone”) more than 80 works adorn the lawns, fields and slopes of the park, in an amusing dialogue with our intellect and with nature.

My own favorites are the irreverent and playful, Barbielapin, by Nicola Zaric, the stupendous Der Feuerreiter (Fire Rider) by Suter & Bult and the arresting Les Loups qui traversent la nuit (Wolves crossing night) by Olivier Estoppey. But the whole point about Bex Arts is that there is something for everyone, including harassed mothers who really don’t know what to do with their toddlers on a sunny afternoon. Take a glance at the sculptures on show and remember that the next edition will only be in 2011.

Friday, 1 August 2008



Mercury Rev

Zoot Woman


Just as you were settling into the August lull, the For Noise Festival in Pully is taking off from 7 to 9 August. In a region of Switzerland where the density of summer cultural events is overwhelming, the youthful festival makes for a refreshing change, especially if you like making discoveries. Niched in the forest of a chic Lausanne suburb, the event showcases music that is exciting even for blasé connoisseurs.

For Noise Festival was started by two local boys twelve years ago in a forest area of Pully better known as a place for scout gatherings and where dads build tree houses with their kids. The Pully Commune, after several years of hesitation, finally understood the brilliant impact of having a youthful venture on its territory. But outdoor festivals are dependent on the weather and the For Noise almost drowned in rain during the 2007 edition.

Fabien Ruf, the Head of Culture for Lausanne, says that the programme, which is innovative and risky, is the reason that the city helped save the festival, even though it is not on its territory. He believes that the timing of the “one-of-its-kind event”, once the Montreux and Paléo Festivals are out of the way, is perfect. Pomp It Up, the trendy shoe store, has become the main sponsor and has helped develop the communication campaign, because Toto Morand, its owner, believes that this “alternative” festival is essential. Now, with a three day line-up that includes artists from the UK and the USA, the future of For Noise looks a lot brighter.

Mercury Rev, Zoot Woman and Tricky are the groups that you will want to look out for and they will be in Pully on three separate nights, along with an average of nine other groups. Check out the following links and get an on-line sample of their sounds.

The American group, Mercury Rev is best known for the hit song "The Dark is Rising" where the lead singer, Jonathan Donahue’s high pitched vocals mesh with the deep, often orchestral, sound of the band. They will perform on Thursday, 7 August at 22:45

Zoot Woman are the British icons of “electroclash” (a fusion of New Wave and electronic dance music) and their hit “Living in a Magazine” is familiar to many of you. Adam and Jonny Blake are joined by Stuart Blake, the Grammy Award winner who regularly works with Madonna, Seal and The Killers. The shows of Zoot Woman are known to be spectacular. They will be on the main stage on Friday, 8 August at 21:00.

Tricky is Adrian Thaws, the British “trip hop” (rock and hip hop) musician, who has returned from living 17 years in the US. His new album has just been released by Domino, the label that also produces Franz Ferdinand and the Artic Monkeys. Tricky will be on stage on Saturday, 9 August at 22:45.


A robot camera gazes at Piotr Anderszewski during a rehearsal at Verbier

© Mark Shapiro/Verbier Festival


The prestigious classical music Verbier Festival is allowing people all over the world to attend its concerts in real time and for free. In a pioneer venture that is transforming the art of broadcasting concerts and drawing new audiences, the festival is offering 27 concerts online during its 2008 edition until 3 August and then through delayed broadcasting for an additional 60 days. Many events are accompanied by exclusive interviews and backstage footage.

The innovative partnership between the festival and ARTE TV, the cultural Franco-German TV station and Medici TV, an independent producer of live art webcasts, was an immediate success when it was inaugurated last year. The online program attracted 150’000 unique visitors from 173 countries and those visitors streamed a combined total of one million videos from the site. The figures already registered this year point to double that amount.

Swiss television is also broadcasting 17 of the concerts on its TSR website. Armelle Roullet, Chief online editor, welcomes the challenge that makes, she says, a nice change from the traditional coverage of the Montreux and Paléo Festivals. It also helps TSR extend its web appeal beyond its usual audiences.

Classical music events are generally considered impossible to capture well on screen. But Medici Arts, in conjunction with EuroArts in Leipzig and Idéale Audience in Paris, have developed a new approach to filming that gives extraordinary crispness and intimacy to the images. What you see on the screen is no longer a flat musical documentary, but a film that captures the emotions and intensity of the musicians. Hervé Boissière, Head of DVD and New Media at Medici Arts reveals a few keys to the quality of the productions. A small battalion of robots equipped with high definition lenses glide on the stage between the artists, quietly capturing close-ups that no handheld camera is discrete enough to obtain. And because the producers know the pieces of music inside out, they are able to do the editing in real time.

But the significant innovation this year is the use of prototype encoding stations launched by the Texan company, Kulabyte, that accelerate the compression process, increase picture quality, and reduce the required bandwidth for video transmission. Live performances have never felt more real.

Such technical developments are also helping opera gain web ground. When Peter Sellar’s provocative production of Mozart’s unfinished Singspiel, Zaide, for the Aix-en-Provence Festival was being filmed, also by Medicis tv, the preternatural American director’s image editing has resulted in a webcast that the Los AngelesTimes says “ best demonstrates the power of the internet” due to the “dramatically strong video direction” by Sellars.

The vertiginous rise of productions presented online – and the impossibility to control their distribution - has transformed the negotiation of artists’ rights. Martin Engstroem, the Director of the Verbier Festival, says that he is very proud that the musicians performing in his festival (who included in this year’s edition the world stars Martha Argerich and Joshua Bell) have accepted the Medici audiovisual clauses embedded in the Verbier contracts Thanks to their combined efforts, Medici is steadfastly composingwhat it calls the “archives of the future”, a music film library that is available online with a subscription.

Contrary to the idea that webcasts can kill “live audiences”, ventures such as the one initiated at the Verbier Festival reveal a phenomenon similar to the one in rock and pop: the more music people discover online, the more they are likely to want to see the musicians in real life. Clémence Flechard of Arte adds that the frontiers being broken down are not just geographical, since people from around the globe can access the concerts, but cultural as well, because, surprisingly, new audiences are discovering classical music thanks to the web.