Japanese architect Shigeru Ban has revealed his competition-winning design for a campus of timber buildings to house the headquarters of watch brands Swatch and Omega in Biel, Switzerland.
The architect will add three new buildings to accompany Omega's existing offices, creating a consolidated campus and visitor centre that incorporates exhibition galleries, public plazas and a riverside hiking trail.
Using the engineering technologies of a nearby timber institution, each of the new structures will be built with a solid timber frame. Pillar and beam constructions will be used for a museum building and Omega production hall, while the Swatch headquarters building will feature an undulating timber gridshell.
"I wanted to design something very special and particularly appropriate for this city," said Shiguru Ban at the project launch. "I know that Biel is very famous for its timber technologies – they have the most advanced timber institution."
Describing how the structure of his Centre Pompidou-Metz was tested in Biel, he added: "Timber is the only renewable material for construction in the world. This building is going to be very important, not only for the company, but also for creating a new environment, creating the icon for the city of Biel."
The museum building will form the centre of the campus and will be raised off the ground to open up a new entrance plaza.
The curving body of the Swatch headquarters will branch out from the museum, extending the plaza out across the street.
The project is set for completion in the summer of 2015. It will be the second building Ban has worked on for Swatch, after he completed the brand's Japanese headquarters in Ginza, Tokyo, in 2007.
Here's a statement from Shigeru Ban:
I was very happy to win this competition to design the Headquarters for Swatch and Omega. This project is very important not only for Swatch and Omega but also for the city of the Biel. I wanted to design something very special and particularly appropriate for this city. And I know that Biel is very famous for its timber technologies – they have the most advanced timber institution. Even the Pompidou Center in Metz – we designed the timber roof and this was tested at the timber institution in Biel. So this city is well known for the timber technology – the most advanced timber technology, that's why most of the building is designed with timber. Actually timber is the only renewable material for construction in the world. So this is also very important for the environment of the future. And this building – this project – is going to be very important not only for the company, but also for creating a new environment, creating the icon for the city of Biel. So this is the aim for this project – not only for functional reasons.
Also I have to explain that the Swatch Group has been working very closely with us. I also won the competition for the Swatch building which is called the Nicolas G. Hayek Center in Tokyo in 2005. We built the 14 storey building in Ginza Tokyo which is the most important commercial area in Japan. This building is also very innovative. We opened them – all the buildings – to the street to take natural ventilation. So the innovation of the building was the most important point which pleased Mr Hayek when we proposed the competition. And the important point of this building is not only the shape of the building but also the innovative idea for the Swatch and Omega companies – as you know, the Swatch is the innovation of Mr Hayek. That was totally revolutionary for the history of watchmaking. So we tried for the project to propose something very innovative as a building, as the Swatch is very innovative for the watch technologies. So that's the kind of common idea between watchmaking and my proposal design for the building for Swatch and Omega. Because this is the second collaboration with Swatch Group, we have already established a very, very good relationship between our company and Swatch and Omega. So although this is a very challenging project, I really believe that the whole process will go very smoothly. And we have very good client, they totally understand the spirit of the design. We also have very good local team. Local architects, local engineers. Everybody was especially chosen for this particularly challenging project. So I have a great confidence that this project will move very smoothly, with a very successful proposal for this 21st century – not only for the city of Biel but also for Switzerland and for the world. Thank you.
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