La Chaux-de-Fonds is a city filled with stories and specificities which make it unique. It is an industrial city lost in the jura mountains, situated at 1000m in altitude, world famous for its rich watchmaking history, and classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But over the last decades, its population has been decreasing at an alarming rate. Many apartments are vacant, especially in the center. Because of its protection, renovations are costly, and despite the increasing vacancy rate, newer housing is being built in the periphery of the city, which encourages the emptying of the center.
THE COMMUNAL GRID
function: COMMUNAL SPACE
apartment count: -44
Today, 17% of all apartments in la Chaux-de-Fonds are vacant, but only 4% are on the market.
It is estimated that the vacancy rate reaches 25% in the center.
Since 2016, the Lex Weber law forbids any district with a vacancy rate higher than 20% to construct new buildings or make any sort of change to its existing fabric. Although beneficial to smaller mountain villages which suffer from an excess of secondary homes, applying this law to a city whose vacancy results from depopulation would only make the situation worse.
As a strategy to always remain below the 20% limit, vacant apartments can be removed and repurposed into communal space, losing their status of secondary homes. Through this gesture, novel and specific ways of living together can emerge which celebrate the heritage of la Chaux-de-Fonds and make it current again.
The true watchmaking urbanism of la Chaux-de-Fonds doesn’t lie in the facades of the buildings or the number of inhabitants, but in the city as a system made by and for its people, working and living together. The project aims to engage with the communities by getting them involved in the future of their city. Instead of looking at vacancy as apartments waiting to be moved into, we could view it as spaces of infinite possibilities.
EVERYTHING IS THERE, IT'S JUST A MATTER OF ARTICULATING IT IN NEW WAYS.
hover to enhance