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International Organization for Migration 

Workspace Architecture I Geneva, Switzerland

Contracting Authority : International Office of Migration (UN IOM)
Organiser : A-Architectes Sàrl

Area 11,500 Sq. ft

Status Competition

Team Sarika Shetty, Ahanta Ganti, Saivi Shah, Prachi Kadam, Tushara M

Render credits RenderZoo

Composed of timber, stained debris concrete, and hempcrete, the proposal for the new Headquarters creates a calm oasis forleaders confronting global crises by enhancing connections with nature and providing multipleopportunities for social interaction.

The International Office of Migration (IOM) is a United Nations entity dedicated to promotinghumane and orderly migration for the benefit of all by providing services and advice togovernments and migrants.


SJK Architects’ proposal for IOM’s new headquarters building replaces the existing structure,addressing the needs of the organisation’s growing workforce and enabling dialogue with its 174Member States in a sustainable and economical way. The brief mandated 600 workstations,social spaces, and a conference centre for 300 delegates and observers, along with ancillaryfacilities.


The design seeks to create a calm oasis that empowers users to deal effectively with sensitivesituations that may arise due to the nature of the organisation’s work. Beyond providing aflexible workspace that enables various working modes and capacities, social spaces andlandscape features are dispersed throughout the facility to promote the users’ emotional well-being.

Sensitive integration into the existing landscape

The site abuts a prominent arterial road on its southeastern edge, while two existing United Nations office buildings flank its southwestern periphery. Lush trees adorn the streets along the remaining site edges; a public park is proposed towards the northwest. The urban development in the neighbourhood supports soft mobility — encouraging pedestrians and non-motorised vehicles. Working with the designated local partners, AAG Atelier d'Architecture Grivel & Girod SA, SJK Architects proposed an intervention that preserves all existing vegetation and movement routes, integrating sensitively into the existing landscape and urban fabric. The northeastern facade of the eight-storeyed structure is recessed and curved generously to accommodate existing trees on site and create an inviting public plaza connected to the street. Wide steps are extended into the landscape towards the park, connecting the ground and first floor levels, and establishing a multifunctional public space ideal for hosting small exhibitions, workshops, and pop-up markets — serving the needs of delegates as well as the local community. Sleek lines and transparencies define the volume, tempered with green walls that bring nature indoors. Programmatic requirements are distributed vertically, efficiently segregating public areas, workspaces, and service areas. The ground floor is designed as an inviting public interface, and hosts functions such as the reception, creche and play area for kids, and a public restaurant. Conferencing facilities for delegates and a library are housed on the first floor, while offices are designed on the upper six floors. Services demanding a controlled environment, such as the archive, media room, and delivery and storage areas, are clustered together in the basement, along with staff amenities and bicycle parking.

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Programmatic requirements are distributed vertically, efficiently segregating public areas, workspaces, and service areas.

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Facilitating social interaction and connection with nature for emotional well-being

Multiple design gestures are orchestrated to foster social interaction and forge a deeper connection with nature to promote users’ emotional well-being: 


a.  The ground-level public restaurant extends onto the plaza with alfresco seating under tree canopies, creating a convivial setting for employees and neighbourhood residents alike.  

b.  A long staircase, a key design element, winds along the tree-lined facade, connecting all building floors; its wide landings and organic form are designed to encourage chance encounters.  

c.  A series of breakout terraces are also created to support informal social interaction. Certain terraces incorporate green walls featuring edible species, fostering opportunities for urban farming. The roof hosts a cafe and urban garden, promoting active community engagement. 

d.  Across all levels, large, floor-to-ceiling windows offer uninterrupted views of the surrounding greenery. The vertical circulation and services core is planned at the centre of the floorplates, while the workspaces are positioned along the facade to optimise daylighting and maintain a visual connect with the outdoors. 

Creating flexible workspaces

The design features a mix of flexible work environments that cater to diverse working preferences and styles. 


Each office floor provides opportunities for collaboration via meeting rooms and collaboration tables, along with spaces for focused work, such as individual pods and cabins. The collaborative spaces are designed with reconfigurable furniture to facilitate working in smaller as well as larger teams of up to 50 people. Adaptable partitions also allow the three conference rooms on the first floor to be customised for varying capacities, ranging from 100 to 300 people.

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A series of breakout terraces are also created to support informal social interaction. Certain terraces incorporate green walls featuring edible species, fostering opportunities for urban farming.

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Sustainability measures

Exemplifying SJK Architects' commitment to meaningful and sustainable architecture, the design employs environment-conscious materials and construction techniques that prioritise the wellbeing of users as well as the planet. A composite structural system comprising carbon-negative materials, such as hempcrete, and glue-laminated timber and cross-laminated timber sourced from local sustainable forestry, is developed to significantly reduce the building’s carbon footprint. Hempcrete offers exceptional thermal and acoustic performance — reducing the structure’s energy consumption significantly. The vertical circulation core and basement is designed in stained debris concrete, reusing debris from the demolished structure and reducing waste to landfill. The facade is designed with triple-glazed panels to create a well-insulated envelope that lowers the operational energy requirements for heating. Trellised green walls are integrated into the facade to further support thermal regulation while also minimising glare and improving indoor air quality. Developed in collaboration with Hydroplant-AG, the green walls are composed of 15 diverse warm-weather and evergreen species, including edible fruiting creepers and fragrant climbers, that attract biodiversity, like birds, moths, bees, and butterflies while creating opportunities for urban farming.

In addition to the passive design measures, several active measures are integrated for efficient energy and resource management. A mix of ground source and air source heat pumps are planned to deliver the heating and cooling demand efficiently; local solutions, such as GeniLac, are recommended. Smart controls of HVAC systems and lighting further enable reduction in energy demand. 


The design also explores opportunities for renewable energy generation. Building Integrated Photovoltaic Panels (BIPV) are integrated in the South, East, and West facades to contribute for approximately 50% of the building energy demand on an annual basis.    


Additionally, the rainwater harvesting scheme ensures sustainable water usage by collecting, treating, and recycling rainwater for irrigation and toilet flushing, further enhancing the project's environmental footprint.

SJK Architects were selected among 15 leading international practices to participate in an invite-only competition for designing the new Headquarters for the International Office of Migration (IOM) in Geneva, Switzerland. 

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