Modern and Green: Heritage, Energy, Economy





Modern Movement, Modern architecture, Modern housing


Built between 1963 and 1971, the Lignon satellite precinct in Geneva (Georges Addor, Dominique Julliard, Louis Payot, Jacques Bolliger) is regarded as the most spectacular housing development in post–war Switzerland. For some, it is an energy–guzzling black hole; for others, an historical monument. Either way, the Lignon has been in the spotlight. Faced with new imperatives to reduce energy consumption, a pilot project in the area of “conservation and thermal improvement” of the Lignon façades has been carried out by the Laboratory for Techniques and Preservation of Modern Architecture at the École Polytechnique Fédérale of Lausanne. The aim of this study is to introduce measures that will allow us to conserve the outer skin of the existing façades, while respecting energy standards, thereby guaranteeing the consistent level of intervention, across all 100,000 square meters of curtain walling, that the site deserves.

How to Cite

Graf, F., & Marino, G. (2011). Modern and Green: Heritage, Energy, Economy. Docomomo Journal, (44), 32–39.




Author Biographies

Franz Graf, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Has been an independent architect in Geneva since 1989 and is currently Professor of Construction at the Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio (since 2005), and Associate Professor in Theory and Design at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, were he runs the Laboratory for Techniques and Preservation of Modern Architecture (TSAM) since 2007. His research focuses on the understanding of modern and contemporary structural systems and his publications have featured in major reference works on Perret (2002), Prouvé (2005), Viganò (2008), Mangiarotti (2010), and Honegger (2010).

Giulia Marino, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Is an architect and graduate of the University of Florence. She obtained a higher degree in Conservation of Modern and Contemporary Built Heritage at the Institute of Architecture, University of Geneva, in 2006. A researcher at the Laboratory for Techniques and Preservation of Modern Architecture (TSAM) at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne since 2005, she enrolled for a PhD in 2008 (with a thesis that deals with interior comfort, heating and air–conditioning systems in the architecture of the 20th century). Her scientific interests lie in the field of history of 20th–century construction techniques and conservation/preservation of Modern and contemporary architecture.


“Le Lignon”, Habitation, Year 37, n° 9, September 1965, 35–36, 38–39 and front cover.

Vögtlin, Rudolf, “Façades en bois et aluminium de la cité–satellite ‘Le Lignon’ à Genève”, Aluminium Suisse, n° 17, March 1967, 59–65.

Heerde, Werner, “Le Lignon, eine Satellitenstadt in Genf”, Schweizerische Bauzeitung, cahier n° 52, December 1967, 320–324.

Heerde, Werner, “L’industrialisation dans les grands ensembles locatifs—la cité nouvelle d’Onex—le Lignon”, BTSR, n° 4, 24 February 1968, 47–52.

Émery, Pierre–A., “La Cité du Lignon, Genève”, Architecture, Formes, Fonctions, n° 15, 1969, 248–253.

Marchand, Bruno, “Inflexion vers l’architecture du territoire—La situation en Suisse romande dans les années soixante”, Werk, Bauen + Wohnen, n° 7/8, August 2000, 36–43, 76–77.

EPFL–ENAC–TSAM, “‘Étude architecturale et énergétique des enveloppes de la Cité du Lignon (Genève, 1963–1971)”, jointly commissioned by the Office du patrimoine et des sites — DCTI—Canton de Genève, ScanE—Service de l’Energie—DT—Canton de Genève and the Comité Central du Lignon, Franz Graf, research leader, Giulia Marino, research assistant, research report, 2008–2011.

Graf, Franz, Marino, Giulia, “Heritage, energy, economy: planned preventive conservation and thermal improvements to building envelopes at the Cité du Lignon satellite precinct, Geneva (1963–1971)”, Conserving Architecture—Planned Conservation of XX Century Architectural Heritage, international conference proceedings (Como, Italy, 30–31 October 2009), Milan, Electa, 2009, 216–227.

Huber, Werner, “Ein Superlatif wird saniert. Die Genfer Siedlung Le Lignon ist ein Riegel con einem Kilometer Länge. Beton, Glas und Alu sind in die Jahre gekommen”, in Hochparterre, supplement to issue 6/7, 2011, 8–13.

Graf, Franz, Marino, Giulia, “Denkmalschutz und Energetische Sanierung des Cité du Lignon”, in Arch+, n° 203, June 2011, 102–107.