Transformation of public sanitaries, Aire de repos La-Joux-Des-Ponts, Fribourg

Mandat direct, completed, 2018 -2019

Photos (c) Tazio Choun

In December 2018 we were commissioned by the Swiss Confederation through the state of Fribourg, to conceive an extension of public sanitaries for travelers: Roman, Gypsies, Roma, Tziganes or Romanichels, according to the region or origins, yet considering themselves as one and united people. They would settle for 6 to 8 months in the area of La-Joux-des-Ponts, working for the locals, and returning every year to the same place.

The project’s aim, taking place in this beautiful, verdant and postcard like region of Gruyère in Switzerland, was to provide eight additional restrooms to an already existing, poorly executed and depraved restroom bloc, made from a concrete structure without a roof nor doors. The place in which the project takes shape, is an extension of an existing motorway service area. The plot is located at the very end of the loop, in which the camp of the travelers is installed.
The whole place is partly supervised by the State Police, and the whole situation had to become a clever working scheme between the strong formal universe of police, a quick construction needs of the state and foremost a project that would be used exclusively by the Romani people. It was decided to work all these aspects by referencing it to the roadside aesthetic and gas stations – interlaced with space travel programs.

The building is composed by eight stainless steel cabins from which thin galvanized columns protrude to support an unexpected and wobbly wooden roof. This gives it an extra attention that shouldn’t otherwise receive any. It achieves that by giving a sharp attention to the details, quickness of construction and taking into consideration the economy of means.

The project tries by those processes to spark a little magic to a kind of infrastructure which lacks it, putting the building on an equal footing with its built context ; Self-sufficient, equipped with solar roof panels, LEDs running around the building and a luminous pole in the forefront, creating a symbol in the camp. The building is active with the people, from six to midnight and then goes to sleep until sunrise.

The construction is named Gemini, a tribute to the manned space travel program launched by NASA.

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