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Sergison Bates wins contest to ‘radically rethink’ Swiss museum

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Sergison Bates has won the contest to overhaul and extend the 1970s town library and museum of cultural history in Bulle, in the Swiss Canton of Fribourg

Working with long-term collaborators Geneva-based Jaccaud Spicher Architectes Associés, the practice was chosen for the Musée Gruérien from a 10-strong shortlist following a two-stage competition.

The other contenders included London’s Tony Fretton Architects, Bakker & Blanc architectes from Lausanne and Majorca-based TEd’A arquitectes.

The original building opened in 1972 and was first extended in 2002, but since then visitor numbers have increased.

As well as revamping the existing structure, the scheme includes a series of new, low-rise pavilions, mainly constructed from timber.

Museum director Isabelle Raboud-Schüle said: ‘It’s a sensible project. The architects understood the need for continuity while innovating. With this project we keep the spirit, but we dare to grow. It’s not a question of signalling our identity by planting a 50m totem pole. There is no spectacular architectural gesture here.

The architects understood the need for continuity while innovating

’There is the will to think about people, about how they can best move around. The museum and the library welcome some 110,000 people every year, and we have to keep that anthill in mind while creating a more comfortable, more generous space.’

Jonathan Sergison, of Sergison Bates architects added: ‘We have a responsibility in relation to what already exists. Our proposal is an exercise in reusing, reconfiguring and subtly reinventing what we found. It adopts the grammar of the existing building and extends it by adding peripheral volumes, so that it grows into a new entity.’

A future timescale is not yet known.

Sergison bates sketch

Sergison bates sketch

Architect’s view

The project proposes a reconfiguration of the existing volume into a composition that is uniform in its expression but articulated into pavilions to house a complex programme that includes museum facilities, a public library, temporary exhibition spaces and public access areas.

The composition of volumes reflects the complexity of the interior program and the history of a place which is particularly symbolic for the town of Bulle. The horizontal emphasis of the ensemble integrates the town’s medieval castle into a new skyline, embedding it into the surrounding landscape.

From the entrance on the ground floor visitors are offered various routes through the building. The generous transitional space at the threshold of the museum lend itself to being used as a museum shop, a café, or for the temporary display of museographic items. Visible form the street, it is a showcase for the public and passers-by.

The roof provides an orientation grid, pierced by the large skylights that indicate routes through the building, creating an inner landscape that structures the experience of the whole, while highlighting individual elements.

The dominance of timber as a structural material offers a durable solution and will characterise the interior spaces, giving them a strong, warm presence, the materiality of the roof and of the external surface echoes that of the original building, creating a subtle shift between the memory of the existing place and its reconfiguration. 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • How is this integrated with the existing building? It looks discrete etc, no gestures, but the existing entrance has a strong identity - where is it?

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