Page N1.2 . 09 February 2005                     
ArchitectureWeek - News Department
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    Timely Watchworks


    Swiss-born architect Tschumi explains the form's concept: "Imagine a fine sheet of metal, its surface worked and open, elegant and easy to curve. One of its two sides — which will become the outside surface — is left bare. The other one, which will be the inner surface, is lined with wood. Imagine a load-bearing structure that is just as fine, and slightly asymmetrical, on which the metal sheet will be curled, in accordance with the geometry of that structure. The resulting space is smooth and precise on the outside, warm and inviting on the inside."

    The two-part building includes a taller administrative wing and a lower production facility. The composition is reminiscent of a classic icon of modern architecture, the Pirelli Building (1969) by Marcel Breuer. The sweeping envelope gives the new building a distinctly 21st-century appearance while, like its predecessor, visually unifying the disparate functions of management and production.

    Inside the building's three-story atrium one enjoys views of translucent walkways leading to the offices and to a restaurant. This reception hall is a single but differentiated space offering separate means of access for "VIP" visitors coming through the main entrance and to employees coming from the parking area.

    The corporate offices are laid out over five floors in this taller portion of the building. The restaurant and directors' dining room on the building's top floor enjoy a clear view over the surrounding, formerly agricultural, landscape to the mountains beyond.

    Factory Floor

    The long, low part of the building houses production areas on the ground level and parking below grade. Entry to the basement level parking garage is via a gently sloping ramp on the north side. Access for deliveries is at the southwest and northeast corners, serving the factory and restaurant respectively.

    Cut into the middle of the production wing is a patio that also serves as a light source for the interior spaces. Channels piercing the roof and given reflective surfaces ensure a high level of indirect daylight. An open plan based on a 33-foot (10-meter) column grid maximizes glare-free illumination and the workers' views to the outside.

    These production and technical facilities were designed to accommodate the differing needs of high-precision factory and traditional workshop. Decades from now we will see whether the building as a whole becomes an architectural "timepiece."   >>>

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    ArchWeek Image

    West elevation of the Vacheron Constantin corporate headquarters and factory by Bernard Tschumi Architects.
    Photo: Peter Mauss/Esto

    ArchWeek Image

    West elevation of the Vacheron Constantin corporate headquarters and factory by Bernard Tschumi Architects.
    Photo: Christian Richters

    ArchWeek Image

    Mirrored skylight wells and views to a central patio enhance light for craftspeople.
    Photo: Christian Richters

    ArchWeek Image

    Cutaway computer model of atrium.
    Image: Bernard Tschumi Architects

    ArchWeek Image

    Architect's concept sketches.
    Image: Bernard Tschumi Architects

    ArchWeek Image

    Site plan.
    Image: Bernard Tschumi Architects

    ArchWeek Image

    Upper floor plans for administrative wing.
    Image: Bernard Tschumi Architects

    ArchWeek Image

    North-facing section above; south-facing section below.
    Image: Bernard Tschumi Architects


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