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Cazu Zegers to Design New Memorial Garden at the Red Cross Headquarters in Switzerland

Jul 14, 2023

Chilean architect Cazu Zegers has been chosen to design a memorial garden at the Red Cross headquarters. In the architect's own words, this project "aims to showcase the selfless efforts of those who have become martyrs of the Red Cross."

This project will be located in Geneva, Switzerland, where over 200 internationally recognized organizations are situated. This includes the Red Cross itself, which has been operational since the mid-20th century, housed in the former Hotel Carlton built in 1876. Zegers' team's proposal emphasizes the values of the institution, encompassing humanitarian services during conflicts, wars, and various potential natural disasters.

"Possibly, the greatest sacrifice of this humanitarian service has been made by hundreds of employees who have lost their lives in the performance of their duty [...] Through their heroism, they have become beacons of peace and protectors of life. Transmitting these values is the basis of our proposal because we want to tell the world and future generations that this selfless act of giving one's life in service is, in itself, an illuminating symbol that remains alive in memory. In other words, dying in service is not dying."- Cazu Zegers

The winning proposal is rich with powerful symbolism: a magnolia tree marks the start of a stone wall that encloses a multipurpose pavilion containing a digital memory, along with an artistic and audiovisual installation. True to Zegers' style, it also accentuates the qualities of the site's geographical connection, as the snowy peaks of the Alps become visible from this vantage point. The pavilion boasts a spherical form and possesses the attribute of commemoration, encompassing a wooden space reminiscent of a womb, housing what is referred to as the Digital Memory

In order for water, an element with enormous symbolism in different cultures, to be part of the project, Cazu Zegers creates a fountain that has dual functionality: it reflects like a mirror and, at the same time, enhances sunlight in the space. At the bottom of this fountain, a poem by Chilean writer Santiago Elordi will be displayed, titled "It Was a Day Like This".

Cazú Zegers has stated that "the design proposes a commemorative garden in the true sense of the word, a garden as a place of calm, beauty, intimacy, and protection that represents the redefinition of the Red Cross community. Our project strengthens the existing garden, its important trees, its soft grass, its generous plateau with a wide view of the city and landscape, and its beautiful play of light and shadow."

In addition to Cazú Zegers, the following architecture practices were shortlisted in the design competition for the new commemorative garden at the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC):

Magdalena CasamitjanaNicolás Valencia