schwarzpictures.comBUILDING ELSEWHERE
Swiss construction activity abroad observed through the camera

film (E)


Film (D)


film (F)

About the Film

Discription of process

Building is a complex process, which is always tightly interwoven with the respective contextual preconditions. Finished buildings convey this only in part. Hence the filmed journal.

This film documents the way in which the Federal Office for Buildings and Logistics (FBL) works abroad. The overhaul of the Tbilisi chancellery in Georgia exemplifies how building projects are developed and realised in different cultural, legal, social and material contexts. Ambassadors, project managers and construction workers speak about the building process.

In February 2018, the filmmakers accompanied the FBL’s project managers to Tbilisi for the first time. This is where the creation of the joint office for the Swiss Embassy and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) was to be documented. The film was to focus not on the building itself, but rather on the building process. This was because the various individuals and groups that came together on the construction site, with their diverse social, ethnic and professional backgrounds, rapidly revealed that building is approached quite differently here. The film was to tell the story of how this worked and render the experience tangible.

The filmmakers returned to the site at regular intervals over the period until summer 2019 to observe and document on camera. An intensive interaction between filmmakers, client and construction site operators ensued, juxtaposing and relativising Georgian and Swiss habits and customs. Much like a silent companion, the camera captured facts, narratives and processes of exchange:

Observation: Even if fall protection is dealt with slightly differently here, chainsaws are commonplace even when performing the finest of woodwork and the odd chair might be used as a ladder: the calm and clarity with which the building project is managed seems to work. The different work processes on the construction site are shared across small, autonomous teams. Material deliveries are often taken care of using private vehicles.

Communication: The project manager meets with future users in the on-site office container to gauge their needs and gather their ideas. He spends hours discussing deadlines with general contractors, quality requirements with the controller and terms and conditions with suppliers. Ever critical, but open and calm. After hours of countless decisions, the core team goes for a meal together. Here, further questions are discussed and ideas debated. Between the lines, it quickly becomes apparent that the group values and trusts one another. Even off camera.

In the end, one last visit in summer 2019 served to confirm the filmmakers’ expectations. The finished article told only a fraction of the story behind it. Much of the story came to light through interpretation during editing. It highlights an aspect hinted at by the building’s modest dimensions, the carefully renovated brick walls and the Georgian porter’s friendly smile: namely, that the success of this building project is largely thanks to the mutual respect these two nations have for one another.


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