Apres Ski: Eco Village Les Diablerets

In this studio, we will look at the other side of the “coin” of the rapid urbanization phenomena. As we discuss the need to strategize population growth and migration in the urban metropolis, we overlook its impact on rural areas. Stabilizing rural communities is essential in alleviating the massive exodus to large cities that we witness today. In order for rural villages to survive, they need to retain young people, create jobs, and most importantly continue to produce food for cities, conserve natural resources and promote the tourism industry.

Les Diablerets is a village in the French speaking Swiss Alps. It lies between Lake Geneva and Gstaad at an altitude of 1200m, its summit at 3200m. This small village is surrounded by a massif rock wall and is regarded as a dangerous and cursed place, thus its name, French for ‘small devils’. In the last few years, villagers and intellectuals, economists and politicians have discussed the topic of Eco Village over the subject matter of its future energy resource. Switzerland announced that it will phase out nuclear power plants by 2033. Nuclear energy can account for up to 40 percent of consumption. There is no central policy in place at this time, and each locale is asked to provide its own strategies.

In the first part of our studio, we will conduct research and analysis on rural issues of environment, energy, resources and economy. We will visit Les Diablerets between January 31st and February 6th, and will meet with villagers. There will be presentations by Ecos ( www.ecos.ch) a Basel based research consortium which looks holistically at ecology, economy and social responsibility. We will also work with Bloomberg New Energy Finance (www.bnef.com). This organization is a source of data, insight and news on the transformation of the energy sector. We will look at the viability of energy policies and economies related to planning strategies for rural villages.

Because of the incremental growth of the village, there are multiple gaps that need to be mended in order for a village to survive in the future. The second phase of the studio will involve proposals for various interventions for the village, in small and large scales that can potentially become game-changers and provide different opportunities and various future scenarios. These include the expansion of its congress center, a new spa facility, a Glacier tourism center, bridges and path systems for ski lifts, a concert hall, a local museum, a farming school, a gastronomic center and markets. These interventions must be considered with sensitivity, intelligence and holistic study which includes planning, architecture, resource investigation, production and consideration of the socio economic impacts.

The result of the studio will be presented at the third Eco Village conference at Les Diablerets on August 29th 2014 as an exhibition and presentation.

The studio is funded by Eco Village Les Diablerets, Swissnex and Swiss Government. It is open to students interested in rural issues who have an architectural background, who do not mind cold, snowy winter weather and the inconvenience of rural and mountainous Switzerland, and who are able to ski (in order to travel to different parts of Les Diablerets).