BIG Designed Audemars Piguet Museum is a Sculptural Landmark
Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet symbolises the blend of tradition and forward-thinking at the heart of the watchmakers’ craftsmanship while honouring its deep-rooted origins in the Vallée de Joux in Switzerland, adjacent its original workshop set up in 1875. After six years of work, Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet opens on June 25.
Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet is located among the historical complex of workshops and factories in Le Brassus in the heart of La Vallée de Joux adjacent to the original Audemars Piguet workshop.
Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet is conceived as an oxymoron, according to Bjarke Ingels of BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group). Striking yet subtle. Contemporary yet timeless. Functional yet sculptural. Floating yet rooted. Local presence with a global resonance. A striking landmark that is seamlessly integrated in the local landscape. A contemporary yet timeless architecture that blends with the historical buildings to create an intuitive sequence of spaces – old and new. A pavilion for the art and science of watchmaking that is conceived as a story-line for the visitors – every element is governed by the functional requirements of the exhibition, while appearing as a striking sculpture conceived in a single gesture.
In 2014, BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) won the architectural competition Audemars Piguet hosted to expand its historical premises. The firm designed a contemporary spiral-shaped glass pavilion to complement the company’s oldest building, where Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet set their workshop, technically a start-up of the old times, in 1875. This architectural combination symbolises the blend of tradition and forward-thinking at the heart of Audemars Piguet’s craftsmanship while honouring its deep-rooted origins. BIG’s high-concept spiral, seamlessly rising from the ground, offers a pristine setting for the masterpieces of technicity and design which have taken shape, year after year, in this remote valley of the Swiss Jura mountains.
This historic building was restored by Swiss architecture office CCHE and connected to the new museum, which was also realized by the studio.
The buildings organization and architecture embody the core values of Audemars Piguet. Curved walls and green roof sitting cozily on the landscape, the building is nested in the nature and culture of the place and the people of the valley.
The building, very ambitiously tries to incorporate the inner tension that characterises 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.
“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 while portraying the forward-looking brands ethics,” says Bjarke. Bjarke Ingels envisioned an adventurous structure that would give subtle nods to the legacy Swiss watchmaker’s covetable timepieces.
A feat of engineering and design, it is the first construction of its kind to be built at such altitude. The curved glazing entirely supports the steel roof, while a brass mesh runs along the external surface to regulate light and temperature. The green roof further helps regulate temperature, while absorbing water.
In the light-filled new building, ATELIER BRÜCKNER has incorporated a rhythmically flowing route through the exhibition. It starts in the historic building and, going in a clockwise direction, slopes gently down into the heart of the spiral, after which it rises again in the contrary direction – filled with energy like the springs of a watch. Visitors experience the route as a flowing continuum with a composed narration. Each chapter has its own design language and is introduced by an interlude, a mechanical sculpture or an artistically designed display item. The showcases are positioned within the architecture precisely. Their appearance changes, depending on the particular part of the narration being provided and the architectonic requirement. Apart from glass, defining materials are brass, bleached ash and glossy black lacquer as a surface coating.
To accomplish this, Ingels created a double spiral building that features a green rooftop of walkable paths supported by a facade of curved glass walls. Inside, those same walls separate display areas (300 of the brand’s most notable timepieces are showcased) from the workshop, where visitors can witness the brand’s intricate watchmaking techniques first-hand.
“We wanted visitors to experience our heritage, savoir-faire, cultural origins, and openness to the world in a building that would reflect both our rootedness and forward-thinking spirit,” says Jasmine Audemars, chairwoman of the board of directors. “But, before all, we wanted to pay tribute to the watchmakers and craftspeople who have made what Audemars Piguet is today.”
If the results stun, it’s because Ingels was already in tune with the craft: “Watchmaking, like architecture, is the art and science of imbuing metals and minerals with energy, movement, intelligence, and measure to bring them to life in the form of telling time.”
Size: 2373 square metre
Project type: Competition
Client: Audemars Piguet