WIPO/OMPI Conference Hall
David Matthiessen

WIPO/OMPI Nouvelle Salle De Conférence

Behnisch Architekten as Architects

WIPO - the new conference hall of the Geneva based World Intellectual Property Organization - is characterized by differentiated architectural styles added over the years. The new Conference Hall, which was design by Behnisch Architeken is a predominantly opaque structure. It presents itself slightly raised above the level of Place des Nations and opposite a row of villas. Despite its large volume and introverted appearance it is light and approachable. From its fulcrum arms cantilever out to create openings framing picturesque views, such as that of the Mont Blanc massif. The structure is placed like a sculpture between the two buildings, within the WIPO Garden. The new conference hall differentiates itself from its surroundings both in its geometry and its material quality. 


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The new WIPO Conference Hall lies between the organization’s main building Bâtiment AB and the recently completed administration building, by Behnisch Architekten.


The WIPO Campus is located in the United Nations district at Place des Nations in Geneva and is characterized by differentiated architectural styles erected there over the years. The new Conference Hall, a predominantly opaque structure, presents itself slightly raised above the level of Place des Nations and opposite a row of villas. Despite its large volume and introverted appearance it is light and approachable. From its fulcrum arms cantilever out to create openings framing picturesque views, such as that of the Mont Blanc massif. The structure is placed like a sculpture between the two buildings, within the WIPO Garden.


The lobby of the conference hall is a continuation of this garden landscape, separating the hall from its base and allowing it to seemingly levitate. This generous space also functions as the connection to the existing foyer of the AB building.


The conference hall, located on the second and third floor, has been designed to optimally satisfy the specific requirements of the WIPO: the 900 state of the art conference seats, oriented towards the stage without any hierarchy, are designed by Behnisch Architekten to ensure user friendliness and comfort. The auditorium is filled with homogeneous daylight streaming in through the north-facing glazing above the stage. High quality shading devices allow natural light to meet user-based needs.


The new conference hall differentiates itself from its surroundings both in its geometry and its material quality. Surrounded by glass structures, this polygonal body is constructed entirely of indigenous timber. Wood is also prolifically used on the interior, where its haptic quality creates a gentle and pleasant ambiance. This choice of material and all choices in this project are based upon the attempt to create ecologically, economically, and socially sustainable built environments.

WIPO Conference Hall in Geneva

Poltrona Frau Group Contract as Manufacturers

A true collaboration between architect and manufacturer, Poltrona Frau Contract and Behnisch Architekten collaborated together to develop a state of the art seating concept for the 900 seat assembly area of the WIPO conference centre. Arranged so that the seats are position around a single state in a non-heirarchical arrangement, the seat delivered by Poltrona focus on ergonomics, functionality and space management. In order to install as many seats as possible within the space, Poltrona and Behnisch proposed a solution in which a seat can be mounted wither on wheels or on a rail system. The padding in the flame retardant flexible polyurethane was created to offer maximum comfort. The cold foam ensures that the padding won’t shrink over time and maintains the seat’s load capacity and textural features.


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Poltrona Frau Contract and Behnisch Architekten Collaborate in Producing State of the Art Seats for new WIPO Conference Hall in Geneva


Poltrona Frau contract division collaborated with German architecture firm Behnisch Architekten in the construction of the new conference hall of the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization(WIPO), a United Nations agency with 188 member states. WIPO is the global forum for intellectual property services, policy, information and cooperation.


As part of a project to createthe spaces dedicated to the forum, the collaboration between Poltrona Frau Contract and Behnisch Architekten centered on developing a system of cutting-edge hi-tech seats designed by the German architectural firm for the new conference hall.


The new conference hall, inauguratedon September 22, 2014 during the annual WIPO General Assembly, was specifically conceivedand designed to meet the needs of the organization.All 900seats, arranged around a single stage, are positioned in the space in an entirely non-hierarchical arrangement. The room is therefore dynamic, comfortable and suitable for interaction betweenthe representatives of the various countries. Several smaller meeting rooms complete the functionality of this state of the art conference hall.


Poltrona Frau Contract delivered seats that focused onergonomics,functionality and space management. To install as many seats as possible in the space, PF Contract, together with BehnischArchitekten, proposed a solution in which a seat can be mounted eitheron wheels or ona rail system. This ensures the stability of the seats, which are fixed to the floor, whilst preserving their functionality. In fact, the seats can rotate to a right angle.


“Our architecture office isn’t specialised in furniture design” - explainedfirm founder Stefan Behnisch - “and so for this important project in Switzerland we needed a strong and highly experienced partner that was interested in designing the seats with us.We had a clear idea of what we wanted to do but we needed expert support. Poltrona Frau Contract’s approach was extremely pragmatic and collaborative.” “For us, every new project is a chance to perfect our engineering expertise and demonstrate to the client our reliability in any type of project”, saidKurt Wallner, Managing Director of Poltrona Frau Contract.


Given the innovative and technological characteristicsof the seats, the company decided to develop a complete collection for similar conference rooms. Given the link to the new WIPO conference hall in Geneva, the seats will be called Geneva Chair, a sinuous and elegant seat with a compact and light profile.


The padding in flame retardant flexible polyurethane was created to offer maximum comfort.The cold foam ensures that it won’t shrink over time and maintains the seat'sload capacity and textural features.


It is available in high or low backrest versions, with or without armrests and in the leather colours of Pelle Frau® leather from the Color System collection. The five-spoke metal base can come with or without wheels. As per the finest traditions of the contract division, the stitching and details can be customised in various ways and of course the special certifications required for public places can also be obtained.


Multifaceted shapes

Zumtobel Lighting Gmbh as Lighting

With the aim of contrasting the relatively stern triangle geometry of the wooden ceiling with a “soft” counterpart, Behnisch Architekten collaborated with Zumtobel and the Stuttgart-based engineers from Art Engineering to design a light-weight, spherical luminaire with a “cloud-like” appearance especially for the WIPO conference centre in Geneva. This luminaire on the one hand is able to provide atmospherically difuse lighting, and on the other hand is still able to accommodate technical components such as loudspeakers or cameras.  one hand supposed to provide atmospherically diffuse lighting, and on the other hand to accommodate technical components such as for instance loudspeakers or cameras.


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In Geneva numerous international organisations are headquartered: the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Office as well as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), whose new conference hall has only recently been inaugurated in September 2014. Situated at the Place des Nations – between WIPO's main building and an administration building completed three years earlier, also designed by BehnischArchitekten – the new hall seats almost 900 delegates.


Due to its low thermal mass and favourable structural engineering properties, wood as a carbon-neutral building material has played a crucial role right from the start for the architects of BehnischArchitekten in the implementation of this exemplary sustainable project. Hence, they designed the conference hall as a pre-fabricated timber construction – clad in untreated larch wood shingles and supported by just a few pillars and walls – that seems to float elegantly above a foyer landscape. This impression of lightness is further increased by up to 35 m wide protrusions and extensive glazing, the purpose of which is both daylight provision and establishing a visual link between the building and its surroundings.


What was essential for the design of the conference hall was the architects' idea to create a clearly structured space that would surround the delegates with the pleasant warmth of wood and at the same time direct their full attention to the speaker's desk. In order to achieve the mean illuminance level of 500 lx required on all task areas, ceiling-mounted luminaires were not an option because they would have added unruly structures to the wooden ceiling and thus gravely disturbed the uniform room ambience.


With the aim of contrasting the relatively stern triangle geometry of the wooden ceiling with a “soft” counterpart, BehnischArchitektenin cooperation with Zumtobel and the Stuttgart-based engineers from ArtEngineeringstarted to design a light-weight, spherical luminaire with a “cloud-like” appearance. This luminaire was on the one hand supposed to provide atmospherically diffuse lighting, and on the other hand to accommodate technical components such as for instance loudspeakers or cameras.


For the luminaires inside the engineers designed a supporting structure made of aluminium and shaped like an icosahedron with 20 triangles and a side length of approx. 1000 mm. The actual surface geometry was based on a geodesic dome. The triangular elements typical of such structures were combined in a total of 260 hexagons, with the icosahedron's 12 junctions resulting per definition in pentagons. The precise three-dimensional shape and the uniformly 14 mm wide joint spacings of the 272 aluminium sheet honeycombs with a depth of some 100 mm as well as an appropriate lattice-type substructure were defined using efficient 3D software.


The final design represents the aesthetically appealing ideal of an oversized pollen grain with funnel-shaped hexagonal honeycombs and LED lighting points, which uniformly illuminate all spaces. Per sphere at the intersections between the individual honeycombs are therefor540 custom-made, dimmable Zumtobel LED lighting points with a diameter of only 67 mminstalled– a solution that is expected to be extremely beneficial thanks to the expected LEDs' long service life and extended maintenance intervals.For maintenance work inside the spheres weighing at least 500 kg, suspended from the ceiling on three stainless steel cords, one of the lateral segments can be removed at any time.


Also the rest of the building features aesthetic and subtle lighting solutions. For instance, numerous LINARIA LED light lines installed along the ceiling peripheries enhance the building's structure – flush mounted into the individual elements of the wooden vane ceiling – while providing light in the foyer. For this purpose, Zumtobel developed, among other things, an opalisedplexiglass enclosure ensuring that no individual LED lighting points are visible.


The wood, the inventive architecture and the carefully into the interior designintegrated lighting solutions bestow the new conference hall of WIPO with a distinct appearance, which appears to be magicalwhen entering, but in no way disturbs the delegates doing their work.


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