The site

The Grand Morillon Student Residence, owned by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, is located on land previously owned by the State of Geneva. A large Geneva foundation acquired one-half of the land and gave the other parcel to the Graduate Institute, including 100 years with free rights to build, in addition to generously financing part of the construction. On the other parcel, the State of Geneva granted building rights to Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) for its headquarters, and to the Terra & Casa Foundation for housing, mainly for employees of international organisations.

A localised neighbourhood plan brings together the three construction projects, giving an urban coherence to the whole, particularly in terms of density, landscape, mobility flows and links with public transport. As far as the architecture is concerned, each project owner was free to choose their own design; however, the external amenities were the subject of a joint project.

The location of the residence has obvious advantages. In addition to a magnificent view of Lake Geneva, the Alps and the Jura, the location is very well served by public transport, whether by bus or by the tramway that will ascend from the Place des Nations up the Route de Ferney beginning in 2024, closing the route to automobile traffic. Pedestrians can use the Promenade de la paix, which passes between the two sides of the residence and descends to Lake Geneva by way of Maison de la paix’s staircase and the footbridge that passes over the railway.

The Grand Morillon Student Residence completes the creation of the Campus de la paix, situated around the axis of the Promenade de la paix, which extends from the heights of Grand-Saconnex down to the edge of Lake Geneva (Villa Barton, which is currently under renovation, Villa Moynier and the Rothschild building), passing by the Maison de la paix and the Edgar and Danièle de Picciotto Student Residence.

The architectural concept

To select the architect, the Graduate Institute held an international competition, inviting some 20 renowned Swiss and international offices to submit a project oriented towards discovery, encounters and exchanges between its inhabitants. Unlike the Edgar and Danièle de Picciotto Residence, which is located near the city centre and next to the Maison de la paix and its facilities, the ambition was to offer students a multipurpose living environment favouring a community experience.

At the end of the competition, the jury unanimously chose Kengo Kuma’s project, which perfectly met the specifications by enhancing the desired community dimension in two ways. On the external facades of the residence (on the International Labour Organization side and on the route de Ferney side), the architect placed, at varying heights, three large openings made of two superimposed floors, which house the communal kitchens and give a glimpse of the building’s communal life to the outside. On the interior facades, the architect has inserted a “gradual walk” that uses a footbridge to link the two bodies of the building between which the Promenade de la paix passes.

The “gradual walk” has two functions: it leads to the panoramic terrace via an ascending walkway on the side of the building, and it gives access along the route to spaces dedicated to communal activities, creating a transition between the public space and the private accommodation space. Thus, the residence has two striking characteristics: on the one hand, an abundance of community spaces and on the other the arrangement of these spaces along an ascending path rather than concentrated on the ground floor, as is usually the case in student housing.

The simplicity of the design choices match the simplicity of the concept. Kengo Kuma wanted to create a strong yet delicate contrast between the metal façade, with its large light-grey shutters that project a monumental force, and areas such as the “gradual walk”, communal kitchens and living quarters, where the colour of the wood provides a warm and intimate atmosphere. True to Japanese tradition, he focused a lot of attention on the dwelling design, whether in the economical use of space or in the use of wooden benches placed near windows, creating a transition between inside and outside and serving as a place for storage, resting and walking to open and close the shutters. The high quality of the workmanship also displays the same attention to detail.

Sustainable development

The Grand Morillon Student Residence reflects the Graduate Institute’s deep concern for sustainable development. This has led the architect and the Graduate Institute to carefully choose all of the materials used in its construction, from those used in circulation areas to the equipment used to maintain the building’s temperature. Like the Maison de la paix, the residence uses the GeniLac system, which draws water from the depths of the lake for cooling, and a district heating network, which mainly uses the energy released by the combustion of household waste for heating. In addition, the encouragement of soft mobility and short distribution channels are evident in the many bicycle parking spaces and the two community gardens on the roofs.

Operating policy

The operation of the residence follows the model already established for the Edgar and Danièle de Picciotto Residence, namely the provision of a package of services focusing on the accommodation. Each accommodation comes furnished and equipped. The cleaning service cleans surfaces and bedding periodically. The rent includes access to all common areas, except for the fitness centre, which has separate membership. Finally, a security service watches over residents.

The residence also houses the service responsible for the administration of all the Institute’s accommodations, as well as the Campus de la paix security service.

Technical specifications

24,200 m2 of gross floor area (GFA), including approximately 2,000 m2 of
common areas


  • 680 beds
  • 254 studios
  • 263 studios with kitchen
  • 88 one-bedroom apartments
  • 6 two-bedroom apartments
  • 21 three-bedroom apartments

Common areas

  • 25 communal kitchens
  • Study room with 16 seats
  • Amphitheatre with 100 seats
  • Recreation room
  • Fitness centre
  • Two meeting rooms with 14 and 24 seats
  • Multifunctional hall of 320 m2
  • Shop
  • Café/restaurant
  • 2 community gardens
  • Rooftop terrace of 300 m2

Cost and financing

Total cost: CHF 146,000,000, including the land
Financing: donation of CHF 50 million, loan of CHF 96 million

Résidence étudiante Grand Morillon | Visite guidée
Résidence étudiante Grand Morillon | Le projet architectural