Aire River Restoration
The restoration of an urban river to meet ecological and social objectives
Georges Descombes Architect, Atelier Descombes Rampini Architects
In process-based restoration, the objective is not to create a complex river form directly; instead, interventions are intended to “prompt” the natural processes to restore such forms. The improvements in ecological conditions are actually made over time by flowing water during floods and by the growth of riparian vegetation. On the Aire River in Geneva, ecological function was restored to a formerly canalized river by providing the river with an espace de liberté. The river Aire flows south of Geneva through valleys historically devoted to farming. From late nineteen century to the 1940s the river was progressively canalized to control flooding. In 2001, the State of Geneva opened a restricted competition to return the river to a more natural form. In fact, the general implicit idea of the competition program was really to restore the river to its original shape and settings, by destroying the canal and redirecting the flows into the former meanders.