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Geneva parliament approves new museum after heated debate

The present museum building only has space to exhibit five per cent of its collections.

(Ethnographic Museum of Geneva)

After lengthy debate and years after it was first proposed, the city authorities in Geneva have approved the construction of a new ethnographic museum.

The project is expected to cost SFr103 million ($61 million), and over half of the funding will come from the municipality. The sum is higher than anticipated, but objections to the project were not only on financial grounds.

A Christian Democrat member of the city parliament, Guy Mettan, said the new building would clash with the 19th century architectural style of the proposed site, in Geneva's Tranchées quarter. He suggested that a more appropriate location would have been near the European headquarters of the United Nations, where land was available.

Another parliamentarian, Evelyne Strubin, criticised the proposed architectural concept, saying it did not allow for any future extensions to the building. She also said its impact on the surrounding area would be architecturally "disastrous".

The criticisms were rejected by Alain Vaissade, city mayor and head of the cultural affairs department. He said building extensions would be possible, and added that it was clear from the architectural plans that the new museum would in fact blend perfectly with nearby buildings.

Opponents of the project are now considering whether to call a referendum so that the people of Geneva can make a final decision on the project.

The existing ethnographic museum - in a former school building since 1941- is considered much too small. It has space to exhibit only five per cent of its collections, which include many cultural items reflecting Geneva's relationship with the rest of the world.

swissinfo with agencies


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