© Fondation Braillard

Initiated by Fondation Braillard Architectes, Geneva, and Habitat Research Center, EPFL, the Bernardo Secchi Working Seminars (JBS) began in 2015. An international, interdisciplinary forum, it addresses key urban and regional issues for ecological transition amid the climate crisis. Dedicated to the late planner Bernardo Secchi (1934-2014), Professor at the Schools of Architecture in Geneva and Venice, the seminar honours his legacy. As an internationally acclaimed urbanist, Secchi consistently advocated for a critical understanding and innovative action, shaping the just and optimal development of the urban realm through his writings and projects.

7th Bernardo Secchi Working Seminar 2024

HRC is pleased to launch the call for contributions to select participants for the 2024 edition!

October 22nd – 24th, 2024
Lausanne / Venice

Call for contribution
deadline: April 2nd, 2024, 12 am


Space, life, and politics: Counter-projects and the Socio-Ecological Transition

Marking Bernardo Secchi’s 10th memorial anniversary, the JBS 2024 extends the reflection initiated in 2022, focusing on the ecological, social, and spatial transition of modern urbanized territories.
Delving into the interplay between socio-ecological Transition and radical adaptations in our practices, policies, and projects, the seminar aims to unravel the inherent tensions in navigating these complex dynamics.

As per Bernardo Secchi, European democratic culture forms the canvas for a “vaster biopolitical action”. This endeavour intricately shapes and transforms urban spaces with the goal of safeguarding, educating, and emancipating its people. Consequently, the planning and design of the 19th and 20th centuries are characterised as techno-scientific and creative extensions of this enduring tradition.
Today, this contemporary project concerning space and life, often pejoratively labelled “biopolitical” by Michel Foucault2, grapples with profound economic, social, and environmental challenges such as threats to ecosystems from excessive extraction, societal divisions, escalating spatial injustices, weakened economies, and global health risks. Redirecting designers’ focus on space, life, and politics becomes a pivotal approach to devise planning and design tools for a habitable, equitable, and healthy planet amidst these complexities. Enabling this socio-ecological and spatial transition necessitates a fresh start, marked by a fundamental conceptual shift favouring novel connections among space, life, and politics.

Hence, the seminar will delve into concerns such as socio-spatial conflicts, strategies for mitigating climate change, counteracting its impacts, and the emergence of new ecologies in modern urbanised regions. All these considerations pivot around the fundamental issue of design and its execution.

The seminar is organised into three main axes:

– Concrete utopias

– Counter-actions and activism

– Radical policies

Important dates

April 2nd, 2024, 12 am: submission of proposals
April 15th, 2024: announcement of selected proposals
June 3rd, 2024, 12 am: submission of final written contributions
October 22nd, 2024, 12 am: submission of final presentations
October 28th-29th, 2024: Bernardo Secchi Working Seminar

Organizing committee

Paola Viganò (HRC-EPFL)
Panos Mantziaras (FBA)
Tommaso Pietropolli (HRC-EPFL)
Hélène Gallezot (FBA)
Anna Karla de Almeida (HRC-EPFL)


Tommaso Pietropolli

[email protected]

[email protected]


6th Bernardo Secchi Working Seminar
The Transition as a Project: Space, Life, Politics

Inaugurated in the framework of the Venice Biennale in 2021 by the Braillard Architects Foundation and the Habitat Research Center ENAC EPFL, with the collaboration of the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning of Ghent University, the 6th Bernardo Secchi Working Seminar aims to challenge the Transition as a project engaging space, life and politics.

It took place at the Pavillon Sicli in Geneva on October 3 and 4, 2022, as part of the Quinzaine de l’urbanisme. The event is part of the EDAR Course AR-668 for Doctoral Students.

Keynote lectures by Mathis Wackernagel, Saskia Sassen, Steward Pickett, and Arturo Escobar

with Paola Viganò, Panos Mantziaras, and Michiel Dehanene

and David Peleman, Silvia Cafora, Elvira Pietrobon, Ben Gitai, Camillo Boano, Antoine Vialle, Yannick Poyat, Nicolas Vernet, Robert Sadleir, Elena Longhin, Saskia Gribling, and Luca Pattaroni. 


Existenzminimum. 90 Years from 2nd CIAM 

The fifth Bernardo Secchi Day of Study is jointly organized by three entities: the Braillard Architects Foundation, in the framework of its Culture and Research Programme The Eco-Century Projet ®; the Habitat Research Centre of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne; and the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. This day continues the momentum established during the critical commemoration of the Sarraz Declaration. Ninety years after the Second International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM, Frankfurt am Main, 1929), which set the goal of a minimum but dignified standard of living for urban populations under the term “existenzminimum”, we find ourselves in the midst of a debate on the conditions necessary for the habitability of urban territories. On the one hand, because the recurrent social demands are a reminder that no rights are guaranteed without citizen vigilance; on the other hand, because the ceiling of resources to be consumed on the “day of overspending” now meets with a broad consensus both among specialists and in civil society; finally, because the city and the local level now constitute the space in which it is possible to act to revitalize our democracies. Thus, the art of urban planning, closely linked to the art of governance, is confirmed as the search for a balance, a golden mean, an optimal spatial framework that could be described as “existenzoptimum”, as demonstrated in the recent work of the English economist Kate Raworth.


Modern City and Contemporary City Facing the Transition 

The 90th anniversary of La Sarraz Declaration would have gone unnoticed if Bernardo Secchi were still with us. Not because of nostalgia, and not to pro-long a battle against an enemy to be definitively destroyed. Rather, it is an occasion for critical reflection on the distances, the inadequacies, the abuses, or on the contrary, the trajectories and continuities between the Modern City and the Contemporary City that remain open in a time of ecological, economic and social transition. In view of this foundational moment for the 20th century avant-gardes, the Working Seminar intends to focus on our own transition characterised by what Bernardo Secchi ten years ago described as an “absence of clear and integral vision of the urban future, leading to incoherent choices regarding new design projects”: the context in which issues of ecological compatibility, sustainability and resilience oblige architects, planners and stakeholders to question anew the main principles of contemporary design.


Urbanism of Hope. Designing horizons of expectations 

At the core of this Seminar lied the role of design, namely the design of cities and territories as an agent in the social construction of hope. “Our forecasts are extremely limited, as limited are, in a pluralist society, the individual and collective capability to coordinate the actions of the different subjects that contribute to the city construction, transformation and modification. Who builds ‘scenarios’ is a disenchanted person that has no certainty and, for this reason, only proposes possible lines of reasoning.” (B. Secchi, 1996). A project aims to change the reality. For this reason it explores the frontier of what is concretely possible in its multiple dimensions: institutional, economic, technical and political. Any project is accompanied by an act of hope. “What may I hope?” The third interrogation of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason admittedly designates a controversial field. This is particularly true in a period, such as the contemporary one, of drastic social, economic and environmental mutations; of deep re-adjustment of values and critiques to simplified ideas of progress. Indeed, those fundamental social long-term aspirations fuelled by modern urbanism, engineering and architecture, in other terms the “great modernization project”, are not widely shared any more.