Explorations of a territory in transition

How to write the history of a world in order to transmit it to strangers from elsewhere, from the future or from other planets? “It’s a very delicate mission,” must have thought US President Jimmy Carter when, in 1977, he wrote these words before sending the Voyager spacecraft into space: “This is a present from a small distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts, and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours. We hope someday, having solved the problems we face, to join a community of galactic civilizations. This record represents our hope and our determination, and our good will in a vast and awesome universe”.


Caillasses is born from the same concern. We were invited to reflect on the transformation of a large part of the city of Geneva into a centre for tertiary activities and housing: the PAV, a perimeter historically dedicated to craft and industrial production. The issues of the PAV project could not be approached only from the point of view of the planners, or politicians – whether they were in favour or against the project – all of them had already expressed an opinion: architects and town planners, citizens and elected representatives, companies and investors, trade unions, inhabitants’ associations… Their multiplicity, diversity and plurality must be considered, even densified, given the presence of actors, both human and non-human, who, although strongly concerned, are rarely questioned when decisions are taken.


We started by questioning the quietest, but most present actor in the PAV project: the stone. Accused of sterility and blamed for their austerity, stone and the materials derived from it are generally opposed to the anarchic spontaneity of living things. Passive, inert, cold: the mineral is among the elements that humanity has most easily domesticated. Its transformation into concrete, bitumen and cement characterises the society born of industrial revolutions, hygienism and the market economy. Although omnipresent in urban areas, the mineral is very often negatively perceived. It is even at the heart of the bad guys… yet minerals play an essential role in sustaining earthly life, connecting us to plants, bacteria, fungi and soils. In order to make visible the implications and interactions of the stone’s ecology on the territory, we have approached its exploration by articulating artistic research, scientific knowledge and everyday culture.


How to consider the mineral with benevolence, as a serious interlocutor, a concrete actor? Working beyond disciplines has enabled us to listen to the stone, to open a dialogue with animals, water, plants, backhoe loaders, but also with people, their hopes and fears. Caillasses is a learning experience, a contribution to the collective intelligence of the territory, in order to reach a common objective: to work towards an alliance between minerals and the living species that design and inhabit this milieu, to face together the climate challenges of the coming decades.

Image Credits: Dylan Perrenoud (1-14), Céline Simonetto (15)