The people of Geneva have narrowly rejected a controversial plan to extend and renovate the city’s Musée d’Art et d’Histoire by the French architect Jean Nouvel. The “non” camp won the public vote on 28 February with 54%.
Ateliers Jean Nouvel in Paris designed the planned extension, which was approved by Geneva’s municipal council last May, in collaboration with the local firms Architectures Jucker and DVK Architectes. The CHF131m ($131.1m) cost, which drew criticism from both the left and centre-right, was to be shared between the municipal government (CHF64m) and private sponsors (CHF67m) led by the French-Swiss businessman Jean-Claude Gandur. The agreement included the long-term loan of antiquities and paintings from his Fondation Gandur pour l’Art.
“The administrative council recognises this result with regret,” says Sami Kanaan, the councillor for the department of culture and sport. The council must now launch a new competition for the museum. Kanaan opposes the suggestion by critics that the museum’s early 20th-century building could simply be renovated. “This building is no longer suitable for the museum’s present needs. We want a museum for the 21st century,” he says.
Rémy Pagani, the councillor for construction and planning, agrees that a renovation alone would be “a waste”, as the work would cost around CHF80m ($80m) without a private backer. Gandur confirmed in a statement that the foundation is withdrawing its support from the museum but remains “favourable” to future exhibitions and loans.