The Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) never fails to impress with its imaginative architectural projects, and this newly completed museum in Switzerland is no exception. Located in the small village of Le Brassus, Museé Atelier Audemars Piguet is one of the firm’s most striking buildings yet, rising out of the earth in a grassy spiral.
Located adjacent to the original Audemars Piguet watch workshop where founders Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet began their business in 1875, the new facility offers exhibition, workshop, and archive space for the brand. The interior rooms are divided by glass walls so daylight can penetrate all the way through its partially subterranean interiors.
The structure is part of a larger renovation of that preexisting building, which itself is set to become a hotel. The architects excavated the hillside to insert the spiraling museum and backfilled it to make it seem like a natural extension of the earth, puncturing it with large skylights on three sides. The green roof of the building is also a walkable ramp, allowing visitors to explore the entire property from an unusual vantage point.
The shape, naturally, is inspired by the tiny spiraling springs found inside watches that conduct energy from the battery. Each level of the outer glass walls is equipped with a honeycomb-shaped shade screen to help regulate interior temperatures, but of course, the earth-sheltered nature of the building helps, too.
“Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet will be located among the historical complex of workshops and factories in Le Brassus in the heart of La Vallée de Joux,” BIG explains. “Its organization and architecture will embody the core values of Audemars Piguet. It must be characterized by the independent spirit of the family-owned company that has retained autonomy over the years, making it a game-changing innovator in a field governed by rules and traditions.”
“It must be rooted in the heritage of watchmaking in La Vallée de Joux, which goes back centuries and is nested in the nature and culture of the place and the people of the valley. And finally, it must incorporate the inner tension that characterizes Audemars Piguet and resonates throughout the brand, the craft, and the designs as captured in the motto: to break the rules you must first master them.”
“In watchmaking, a lot of the disciplines are what you could call getting the maximum amount of impact with a minimum amount of material,” says BIG principal and founder Bjarke Ingels. “The idea is similar to this structure, and how the glass carries the entire roof over our heads…the museum is almost like an open work. Nothing is hidden, all the elements that you see are performing and part of the narrative, gently curving concentric circles.”
Once complete sometime this summer, the 75,350-square-foot Hôtel des Horlogers will give guests the chance to peer into the workshop. Guest rooms are directly accessible from any of five zig-zagging slabs creating an exterior path along the front facade in a reference to nearby ski trails. The hotel will also include a conference center, bar, and spa.