Tribunal of Water

Clemens Jopp
Technische Universität Braunschweig

Project idea

The understanding that all people are equal also goes hand in hand with the understanding that all people are equally entitled to water - a human right. Without it, survival is not possible. Disputes over this resource have existed since time immemorial, as the oldest legal institution in Europe, the Valencia Water Court, shows. Water conflicts will intensify and push ever more strongly onto the international stage. There is a need for an institution that deals comprehensively with this issue and thus secures our livelihood - at least legally.

As a complement to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Tribunal of Water (ICWJ) should be established to settle water disputes and prosecute abuses at the global level.
The campus of the second largest headquarters of the United Nations is located on the shores of Lake Geneva. A steeply rising building site, bordered by the trees of Ariana Park, offers great potential for revitalisation and integration of the design into the UN infrastructure there.

Project description

A major challenge was to sensibly distribute the enormous space required for office uses while affecting the park as little as possible. For this reason, the building mass of the "serving" spatial functions was lowered into the slope and only the representative uses were granted the right to tower confidently between the trees.

The address-forming entrance arch captures the picturesque lake view like a picture frame and is at the same time, in a metaphorical sense, a protective roof in the waterfall of the shimmering façade.

The water eye, the main circulation element of the design, may seem slightly threatening because it is a constant reminder of the seriousness of the situation: water is being lost, we must act now! Likewise, the reflection creates the distorted image of a world without water. The focus is undisturbed on the centre and the representative courtroom body, which offers itself at the end of the staircase as a solution to the water problems.

Basically, the individual building blocks of use can be read in the ground plan and are held together radially by the gravitation of the water eye. The aim was to have court proceedings take place at eye level in an atmospherically iconic space. The elements of light, water, sky and earth are reflected in the spatial concept and materiality. An impressive, seemingly floating cone shape brings daylight deep into the core of the building and creates a unique lighting atmosphere. Under the glass floor, water circulates in an eternal cycle.

Technical information

The facade was developed in a metaphorical level. Water never stands still, so the facade should also show different nuances at every time of day. Inspired by the surface of the water and the elegance of the peacocks' plumage in the park, the polyspectral vertical wave was created, consisting of multi-axis curved triple glazing.

The shimmering, constantly changing colour scheme in nuanced sea tones is created by the electrochromic layer between the first and second panes, which are produced using the gravity bending process - and the anodised metal mesh insert between panes two and three. Together, this also creates good sun protection as well as improved bird visibility.

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