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BIG scoops contest to design museum for Swiss watch-maker

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Danish star BIG has won a contest to expand the historic headquarters of luxury watchmaker Audemars Piguet in Vallée de Joux, Switzerland

The practice saw off competition from an international shortlist including Caruso St John and Snohetta alongside two Switzerland-based practices Richter Dahl Rocha and Group 8.

The 2,400m2 pavilion building will sit in the landscape and is designed to reunite the existing historical workshops on the site with the surrounding rural area.

BIG’s winning proposal is shaped like an intertwined spiral which will act as a ‘storyline for visitors – blending old and new’.

Bjarke Ingels, BIG’s founding partner, said: ‘Watchmaking, like architecture, is the art and science of invigorating inanimate matter with intelligence and performance. It is the art of imbuing metals and minerals with energy, movement, intelligence and measure – to bring it to life in the form of telling time.

‘Unlike most machines and most buildings today that have a disconnect between the body and the mind, the hardware and the software, for the Maison des Fondateurs we have attempted to completely integrate the geometry and the performance, the form and the function, the space and the structure, the interior and the exterior in a symbiotic hole.’

Jasmine Audemars, president of Audemars Piguet´s board of directors, added: ‘La Maison des Fondateurs not only symbolises the deep connection between the brand and its origins but also its spirit of independence and avant-garde.’


The architect’s view

‘The intertwined spirals solve one of the dilemmas of the program. The narrative structure calls for a succession of galleries and workshops, while the logistics of operations requires the workshops to be interconnected. By coiling up the sequence of spaces in a double spiral, the three workshops find themselves in immediate adjacency – forming one continuous workspace – surrounded by galleries.

‘The roof and ceiling of the pavilion is conceived as a single sheet of metal – a steel structure clad in brass, continuous in plan but undulating in section to create a series of openings allowing daylight and views to the exhibits. Towards the end of the visit the double spiral intersects the existing museum building providing access to the vaulted spaces in the lower floor and to the attic. The dynamic forms of modern materials, concrete and brass, give way for a locally anchored tectonic of straight lines and warm surfaces of wood or stone. Heavy meets light. Soft meets hard. Warm meets cool.’


Project data

Location Le Brassus, Vallée de Joux, Switzerland
Type of building museum
Client Audemars Piguet
Architect BIG
Structural engineer Luchinger und Meyer 
Landscape architect Muller Illien
Area 2,400m2

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