After finishing my high school in la Chaux-de-Fonds, I went on to study architecture, first in Lausanne, and later Zurich, where I graduated in the summer of 2022. This strange city in the mountains had left a strong impression on me, and upon becoming aware of its depopulation and high vacancy rate, I felt compelled to study it more in depth. In today’s climate, we are taught to re-use spaces which no longer serve a certain function. Usually reserved for old office buildings and industrial sites, these transformations are made to respond to the increasing demand in housing. But in la Chaux-de-Fonds, the situation is reversed; there is too much housing and not enough demand. Yet it has an extremely rich cultural life, filled with people who are looking for space to create and exhibit, to work and co-exist in.
This project is part of my free diploma thesis at ETHZ with Elli Mosayebi and Patrick Heiz. The aim is not to propose a final design, or a final solution to the vacancy crisis of la Chaux-de-Fonds. Rather, it tries to uncover the potential hidden behind the facades of these many empty apartments. The project experiments with different ways of transforming housing into public space, while enhancing the heritage of the city. Instead of keeping all the vacant spaces private, and therefore unused, the idea would be to give a selected amount to the community, who knows the best uses for them. This not only encourages the city's rich cultural life and reduces the overall vacancy percentage, it also gives an incentive for people to stay in the center, celebrating the heritage of la Chaux-de-Fonds.
MSc arch. ETH