ZIG-ZAG: the BIG hotel for Audemars Piguet - ISPLORA

ZIG-ZAG: the BIG hotel for Audemars Piguet


The plan for a sky hotel for the Swiss watchmaker follows that of its museum

The relationship between Audemars Piguet and Bjarke Ingels is being strengthened by a second project, unveiled a few months ago and now under construction: a hotel for the famous luxury Swiss watchmaker in Le Brassus, in the Vallée de Joux, not far from Lausanne and Geneva. The site is located along the Swiss Jura arc, for centuries the primary location of the production of watches and mechanisms, an arc which is not only physical but also symbolic for the watchmaking industry, which starts in Geneva, passes through La Chaux-de-Fonds and arrives in Bienne. A territory which represents the heart of “Swiss made” and which has increasingly combined production with the narration of the world of watchmaking over the past few years; it is no coincidence that “La Chaux-de-Fonds / Le Locle, urbanisme horloger” was inscribed on the World Heritage list, confirming a hypothetical symbiotic relationship between the city and its production and that it houses numerous company museums: from Patek Philippe to TAG Heuer, to Longines. Each of these with different goals and targets.

The operation of the Audemars Piguet Hotel des Horlogers can be fully understood following this perspective, the choice of a world-class architect for the project, a continuation of the work started in 2014 with the design of the Musée Atelier, also by Bjarke IngelsA relation between the two structures which is not only spatial, considering their proximity, but also compositional, between the spiral of the museum and the zig-zag of the hotel.

The relationship between Audemars Piguet and Bjarke Ingels is being strengthened by a new project now under construction

The complex conceived by the Bjarke Ingels Group for Le Brassus is a filter between the small town and the picturesque landscape surrounding it, which in winter offers many skiing opportunities. Snow is in fact the true protagonist, as the hotel’s rooftop provides direct access to the adjacent slopes from the hotel rooms and common areas.

As to the hotel, the project by the Danish architect is based on a traditional linear building which – thanks to the BIG typical composition – stratifies in 5 horizontal blocks and then unfolds along a ZIG-ZAG where the extremities of the parallelepipeds formed by the different levels of the hotel are the fulcrum of the movement. The slabs thus slide along the terrain following the lie of the land almost seamlessly integrating into the local topography and then bend, merge along a slope which reveals its identity and allows the building to enter into a one-to-one relationship between landscape and architecture.

A continuous ramp originates from these plastic operations, serving a double function, as it both covers and distributes, a spatial continuum between the context and the access to common spaces in the building. The slope thus becomes a “container” for the hotel rooms, which in fact are arranged following the inclination of the slabs. The rooms develop along the zig-zagging line, a sequence of modular units which form a terrace where the indoor and outdoor space is separated by a single transparent wall. This way glass, used along with wood for the external access openings of the building, becomes a composition element which opens the rooms towards the landscape and blends with it.

The zig-zagging shape is also used to organize the arrangement of the rooms and guide the guests to the common areas which house a bar, a spa, two restaurants and a conference center, an experience through approximately 7,000sqm revolving around loisir, enjoying free time and chilling out.

Once again what is revealed is not only Bjarke Ingels’s approach and language, but a true modus operandi, extremely ironic and often educational, which includes redefining the idea of living by integrating it with other uses, an operation which might at first seem unimaginable. In this regard BIG states in the book  “Yes is more” (2009): "Historically the field of architecture has been dominated by two opposite extremes. On one side an avant-garde of wild ideas, often so detached from reality that they fail to become something other than eccentric curiosities. On the other side there are well organized corporate consultants that build predictable and boring boxes of high standard. Architecture seems entrenched between two equally unfertile fronts: either naively utopian or petrifyingly pragmatic. Rather than choosing one over the other, BIG operates in the fertile overlap between the two opposites”.


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