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Salève on Sale

paysage estimé

with Hervé Laurendeau and Ghita Ouassini at EPFL (Fall 2022)
Salève on Sale: paysage estimé, started with a simple yet extremely convoluted question: how to show the emotional value of a cherished landscape such as that of the Mont Salève, in Geneva?

Literature, myths, and experiential knowledge based on our walks on the Salève attest of the poetic almost sacred bond that exists between the human subject and the mountain in its ability to become a vessel for our dreams, a trigger of our imagination, and a platform of exchange with living organisms. However, are the poetics of soil enough to reach a consensus on the value of a
res communis, a common good such as the Salève?

How to estimate the value of an esteemed landscape? The answer resides in the etymology of the verb estimate itself: from the Indo-European
aes, ai-os, which means mineral. Hence, using market-based economy principles, a price tag was to be given to the mineral core of the Salève, and a similar procedure was to be adopted for every layer, from the geological to the infrastructural, from the natural to the anthropized.

The balanced sheet presented in the exhibition and in our catalog below is a summary of our findings and a basis for further (liberal) speculation.

To determine a nearly incommensurable value may seem absurd or vain. Doing so however, is an opportunity to engage with a variety of parameters, phenomena, and bodies of knowledge, that turn into the idioms of latent futures. Indeed, the three visions presented in our interactive installation at the Archizoom exhibition space, are explorations of how the Salève could be utilized to serve radically different political, economic, and ecological agendas.

For instance,
Salève Neutral ParkTM is an environmental scheme allowing polluting giant corporations to offset their carbon footprint by investing in flora repopulation of the Salève natural park. Top of the Rock, is a neo-liberal pragmatic way of funding Geneva’s housing shortage, by selling off a now constructible Salève top to the most offering, and promoting  eco-responsible building and renovating practices around the Salève to offset the resulting carbon emissions. Lastly, A Quilt for Geneva, takes place in a post-cataclysmic world (2187 AD), in which an totalitarian regime envisions the gargantuan task of moving the near totality of the Salève soil to protect Geneva and its infrastructure from present and can future extreme conditions. A bunker engineered at the scale of the metropolis.

These visions are mere starting points of a myriad of latent futures that the visitor can engage with. Indeed, an
abacus, a calculating machine from another age, is at the visitor’s disposal, to find out for themselves how much the Salève costs, and what is the price of every operation that this landscape is subject to. When powers of ten turn into liters of milk, wood trunks, or acres of land, do they start meaning something? Can this new meaning in turn alter the value of money? Abacus operators will intuitively establish equivalencies, add up quantities never found before on the same table and obtain their own balance sheets. In brief, a process of iteration and negotiation embedded with the Mont Salève’s invaluable heritage.

Last but not least, visitors are presented with the Salève on Sale logbook which offers a kaleidoscopic look into the studio’s research approach. Lined mobile paper detailing the main findings, iconographic references nourishing the musings, project figurations giving life to visions, abacus blueprints, cards and user instructions are but a few stops along the journey.

Collage exhibited showing the Mont Salève being auctionned in a Miesian corporatist setting.

Film still from the video On Sale broadcast at the exhibition (click on the photo to watch the movie)

Images from onsite research at the Salève only operating quarry

Images of the exhibition set-up (Archizoom EPFL)
1 - The Saleve Bill: how much is the mountain worth?
2- The Saleve monetization schemes
3- Manifesto and Exhibition Catalog
4-  Abacus and scenario cards
5-  Abacus powers of ten and equivalent material costs

Exhibition Catalog and Research spreads.