More on the WTO building


After considering the 115 proposals received in the course of an international competition launched in 2008, the jury, composed of independent architects, the Swiss authorities, including the City of Geneva, the WTO Secretariat and the Chairman of the WTO Budget Committee, have awarded the first prize to a German firm, Wittfoht Architekten.

The project submitted by Mr Jens Wittfoht combines sobriety, modernity and efficiency. It was selected inter alia for its environmental features (solar panels, use of water from Lake Geneva for air conditioning and heating — Genève Lac Nations network). The new building will blend in harmoniously with the Parc Barton 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 300 staff members. It will have a new library, which will partly be open to the public, a new restaurant to seat 150 and a new underground car park for 200 vehicles.

In August 2008, the WTO embarked on a project to renovate the Centre William Rappard. For years, the Organization 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. The most cost efficient solution is to renovate, densify and enlarge the Centre William Rappard. The overall cost 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.

Some additional information

Renovation and extension in three phases

  • The single WTO site will take shape between mid 2008 and end 2012.

  • The first phase (2008 — end 2011) includes renovating the CWR (including transforming the General Council Room and increasing its capacity). During this period, the CWR infrastructure (electricity, plumbing, heating, etc.) will be rehabilitated and modernized. New 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 more large meeting rooms.

  • The third phase (2010 — end 2012) will see the CWR extended with the construction of an annexe.

International competition

  • The competition was open to all architects in WTO member countries.

  • 115 proposals were received from 25 countries (Switzerland, Romania, Italy, Turkey, Chinese Taipei, United States, Mexico, Finland, Portugal, Ireland, Hungary, Germany, France, Spain, Poland, Netherlands, Australia, India, Singapore, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Dubai, Hong Kong China, Belgium and South Africa).

  • All proposals remained anonymous.

  • Seven projects were shortlisted.

The WTO Secretariat — a few figures

  • Around 750 people work at the WTO Secretariat.

  • Some 800 delegates and ambassadors use the building's infrastructure (meeting rooms, cafeteria and restaurant, Salle des pas perdus, etc.).

A few key dates in the history of the WTO and its extension

  • 1785 — Construction of the original Villa Rappard (now a school).

  • 1919 — Signing of the Treaty of Versailles and creation of the League of Nations and the ILO.

  • 1923 — Swiss architect George Epitaux selected to design new headquarters for the International Labour Office.

  • 1926 — Inauguration of the new ILO building.

  • 1947 — Establishment of the GATT as a result of the Bretton Woods Agreements.

  • 1975 — ILO moves to new HQ in Grand-Saconnex.

  • 1977 — GATT moves to the Centre William Rappard.

  • 1995 — WTO becomes the successor to the GATT and the main occupant of the CWR.

  • 1998 — Construction of the conference centre adjacent to the CWR.

Report of the Jury for the Architect's Competition

The plans and models of the winning project will be displayed in the CWR (WTO building) in the coming weeks. In the meantime, all the projects will be on show to the public in the CICG (Centre International de Conferences Genève), rue de Varembé, from 25 February until 9 March.

The entire project will be eventually submitted to the General Council for its consideration.


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