Looking at CERN from a different perspective

Although the vast majority of students at CERN study and work on projects in the physics, engineering or IT fields, there are some who come to use CERN as a subject to complement their research in other fields. Larissa Kuchina, a graphic design student, and Jérôme Wohlschlag, an architectural student, completed their degrees and their dissertations on unusual aspects of the Laboratory. Both offer valuable perspectives that are not necessarily the ones we usually encounter.


Top: Aerial vue of the CERN site in 1961 (CERN archive).
Bottom: Photo of the Master's project model.

Recently, Jérôme Wohlschlag featured CERN in his dissertation for his Master’s degree in architecture at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. Developed with the help of Professor Franz Graf’s TSAM Laboratoire des Techniques et de la Sauveguard de L’Architecture Moderne, Jérôme’s project focused on the preservation and extension of CERN’s ‘Main Buildings’, which were designed and built in the late 1950s by major players in modern Swiss architecture. “Using Peter and Rudolf Steiger’s drawings of the first stages of construction, I was able to show that the site has great potential for rehabilitation,” he says. “The project revealed a previously unrecognized architectural heritage, and basing construction on these first stages allowed us to propose expansion that meets current architectural requirements.”

The CERN site, with its multi-flavoured buildings and unorthodox layout, can seem daunting. “At first, the site was a mysterious labyrinth to me,” explains Jérôme. “But as I started studying the history of its urban and architectural planning, it became more familiar and I was able to appreciate the quality of the original construction.” But becoming comfortable with the CERN site is often something that only comes after years of experience.

An example of a way-finding element that would appear around the CERN site.

Larissa Kuchina, however, has provided a possible solution to this problem with a diploma project to complete her Bachelor’s degree at the Geneva University of Art and Design. Using fundamental particles – the smallest entities in the Universe – as a starting point, she has proposed ‘CERN. Signage and Identity’, a new system to both establish identity at CERN and help navigate the confusing maze of workshops, experiments and administrative buildings on the site.

“In graphic design, the smallest entity is the visible point, so I decided to translate the particle into a point to make something invisible into something that is visible and more human,” she says. “It is the fundamental particles studied at CERN that create the structures we see all around us, so I designed a pattern comprising different-sized points as the basis for each graphical feature.” This pattern forms the background for each of the elements of the way-finding system that Larissa has proposed be erected around the Meyrin and Prévessin sites.

Each proposed element refers to a redesigned map that allows visitors and staff to locate buildings with greater ease. “I worked a lot on the CERN map, because it is essential to finding your way around at CERN,” Larissa explains. “I made it more legible and clear by dividing the Meyrin site into 5 different zones and by colour-coding these zones according to function.”

The blue 'beam' as seen in the press hallway (Building 50).

She also proposed an alternative to the ‘Black Line’ that guides visitors from the Reception to the Main Building – a ‘beam’ of small blue particles and arrows painted on the floor that keeps visitors on track between the two points.

Creativity is a common feature of many young students. Whatever their specific field of activity and whatever their professional future, they all have the potential to bring a fresh breeze of novelty to our Lab.



by Jordan Juras