On 12 September 2011, the WTO laid the foundation stone for its new building, an extension of the Centre William Rappard which combines sobriety, modernity and sustainable development.

> Director-General's speech at the stone-laying ceremony

> Centre William Rappard


The foundation stone for the new WTO building was solemnly laid on 12 September 2011 in the presence of Pascal Lamy, Director‑General of the WTO, and Micheline Calmy Rey, President of the Swiss Confederation.

This new construction is part of a major project comprising the renovation and extension of the Centre William Rappard (CWR), which houses the headquarters of the WTO in Geneva.  It is essential to the proper functioning of the organization which, for years now, has been short of space for its staff and the delegates who meet there daily.  Having reviewed several options, Switzerland and the WTO reached agreement in early August 2008 involving the renovation, densification and enlargement of the Centre William Rappard.  This was seen as the most cost‑efficient solution.


A new environmentally friendly building open to the public

The building combines sobriety, modernity and efficiency.  A number of strict environmental criteria have been applied (solar panels, use of water from Lake Geneva for air conditioning and heating — Genève‑Lac‑Nations network, etc.).  It will blend in harmoniously with the surrounding park landscape without marring the age‑old vegetation of the park, which will remain open to the public.

The new building will be spacious enough to accommodate up to 300 staff members, who will have a dozen meeting rooms at their disposal.  It will include a new restaurant — also open to the public — seating 250, and an underground car park for 200 cars and 50 bicycles.

Finally, it will also include a multifunctional area with meeting rooms, a training centre, and spaces for encounters and exhibitions.


Cost of the operation

The overall cost of the project will be 130 million Swiss francs (around 80 million euros), 70 million of which are a donation and 60 million a loan to the WTO from the Swiss Confederation.  Out of this total, 40 million Swiss francs will go to the construction of the new building.


Renovation and extension in three phases

  • The single WTO site will be completed by the end of 2012.
  • The first phase (2008 — end 2012) includes renovating the CWR.  During this period, the CWR infrastructure (electricity, plumbing, heating, etc.) will be rehabilitated and modernized.  New small meeting rooms will be created.
  • The second phase (early 2010 — end 2012) will involve densifying and increasing the indoor capacity of the CWR.  During this phase, the WTO will be endowed with a new main lobby and additional large meeting rooms.
  • The third phase (early 2011 — end 2012) will see the CWR extended with the construction of an adjoining building.


Centre William Rappard:  a historical building

Before becoming the GATT and then the WTO, the Centre William Rappard housed the International Labour Office, the current ILO's forebear.  It was built between 1923 and 1926.

Many works of art and decorative elements have been donated by countries and institutions over the years.  The building is a witness to modern history and laden with symbols.  Its recently rediscovered murals and works of art betray a wealth of culture and history.


Director-General's speech at the ceremony

Madam President of the Confederation,
Distinguished Ambassadors, Permanent Representatives of WTO Members,
Mr President of the State Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva,
Distinguished Mayor of the City of Geneva,
Esteemed Members of the State Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva and the Administrative Council of the City of Geneva,
Distinguished Director of FIPOI,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear friends,

Welcome to the WTO!  Thank you for attending this ceremony which symbolically marks the laying of the foundation stone for the new building that is beginning to take shape before you.  We are delighted and honoured to have you here.

We wanted to mark the completion of the preparatory work for the construction of our new building by thanking all those who have helped us - and all those who will continue helping us - to bring this WTO single‑site project to life.  The project has been in the pipeline for a while now and we are all happy to see it taking shape.  This construction site would not have existed without the assistance of many of you who are present here today.

My heartfelt thanks go to the institutions and individuals that have taken part in the great adventure of integrating a new element into this magnificent location.

I would first like to thank the Swiss Confederation, its Federal Council and its Parliament.  By happy coincidence, the person currently representing the Confederation is someone who has also played a decisive role in this project.  Madam President, dear Micheline, you have supported the idea of a single‑site WTO from the outset.  After studying the various options available, you yourself made the decision to go ahead with the plan to build an extension to the Centre William Rappard, in full awareness of the challenges that this would entail.  Together with your teams at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and the Swiss Mission in Geneva, you defended the project before the Parliament in Bern.

In short, you agreed to share our dream.  The WTO will always be grateful to you.  Thank you, Madam President, thank you Micheline, for your constancy, honesty and reliability:  the Swiss quality label, so to speak!

The same sort of happy coincidence involving an institution and its current representative occurred with the Republic and Canton of Geneva and the President of its State Council, Mr Mark Muller.  Without your vital support, your eloquent political commitment and your energy, Mr Muller, our project might have sunk into a mire of legal battles.  We are sincerely grateful to you personally, Mr Muller, to the State Council and to the entire cantonal administration.  We know we can count on your support as we move ahead with our project.

We have also received strong support from the City of Geneva and its Administrative Council.  Mayor Maudet, as a member of the Administrative Council of the City of Geneva since 2007, you are well aware that the success of this project was not a foregone conclusion.  Your personal commitment and the commitment of most of the members of the Administrative Council have also been vital to the successful outcome.  May I take this opportunity, Mr Maudet, to thank Administrative Council member Ms Sandrine Salerno for her advice and for her support of international Geneva — it is an honour to have her here with us today.

My thanks also go to FIPOI, and its Director, Mr François Reinhard, and all his team for their day-to-day work on our three simultaneous projects:  the renovation and the densification of the old buildings, and the construction of this extension.  Since 1995, and particularly since the start of the building work in 2009, the relationship between FIPOI and the WTO has been so close that it will undoubtedly be very difficult to separate us in the future.  Mr Reinhard, thanks once again to you and your team.

A word of thanks also to Mr Jens Wittfoht, the winning architect in the international competition for the new WTO building.  Mr Wittfoht and his team will accompany us throughout the construction phase.  Thank you for the conviction and enthusiasm with which you have defended the architecture of this beautiful building.

Our thanks also go to Implenia, represented here by Mr Anton Affentranger, for the construction work — so far all running according to schedule and budget!  We are confident this adherence to deadlines and budget will carry us right through to the completion of the work in autumn 2012.

Lastly, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who, two years ago, rallied to ensure that the WTO could expand on this site, in particular, the Fondation pour Genève, represented by its president, Ivan Pictet;  the Fédération des Entreprises Romandes and its president Blaise Matthey;  Action pour la Genève Internationale et son Rayonnement (AGIR), its president Vincent Subilia and its young members;  and last but not least, the media represented here today.  A big thank you to all those who have fostered and maintained an open debate that has respected the diversity of opinion.

I would also like to extend my thanks and appreciation to WTO Members, represented by the Chairman of the General Council, Ambassador Agah, and the Chairs of its main bodies, for having entrusted us with what has at times been a perilous undertaking.

As you can see, this building will be the result of a broad consensus.  This is the first time ever that a referendum has been held on the expansion of an international organization's headquarters.  Consensus building, a decision‑making process so familiar to both the WTO and Switzerland, can often try our patience.  But our experience proves that it pays off, in that it affords legitimacy.

The building that is to be erected on this site is not only consensual and legitimate;  it will also be environmentally friendly and respectful of its surroundings.  I will not list all its environmental features.  Suffice to say that it will be the largest Minergie Plus building in French-speaking Switzerland, and the project has already received pre-certification.

Thanks to your valuable collaboration, the assistance of the Confederation and the Canton and City of Geneva, and the support of civil society and the WTO Membership, we will soon have, on this very site, a modern, functional and transparent building that reflects our Organization's aspirations.  My thanks to each and every one of you.

Looking at the pictures that surround us, you will appreciate the logical continuity that has guided us through this undertaking:  between the inauguration of the first building - the ILO building - on this site in October 1926 and today's ceremony, four successive extensions have been built to accommodate the growth and needs of the organizations occupying the site.  And you know how hard I, personally, have sought to ensure that this past was given its proper place.  Our individual and collective identities are shaped by our history and environment, and it is our duty to pass on this heritage, and its fruits, to future generations.  The new building will be an example of this:  rooted in the past, but looking towards the future!

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