The Vacheron Constantin Headquarters and Manufacturing Center, designed and built by Bernard Tschumi Architects (2001-2005), required additional facilities so as to meet the manufacturer’s increasing demands for state-of-the-art watch production. Although the new program is more than double the size of the original four-story building situated on the outskirts of Geneva, the client insisted on preserving the building’s iconic and symbolic presence. The new building conceived by BTA is located so as to open a cone of vision toward the flagship building. Since other construction is anticipated, the architects conceived of a campus in which all the buildings differ in configuration, but appear to belong to the same structural family. The manufacturing spaces have been oriented on the north side of the new building so as to achieve the best natural light for the skilled watchmakers, with skylights providing comfortable working conditions. A large restaurant opens onto a generous lawn. A ground-level service court allows for truck deliveries, while the car park and small delivery depot occupy the basement level. The concept of a curved metal envelope acting as a common denominator for both manufacturing and management, blue- and white-collar workers, was the starting point for the original building. For the extension, the architects developed a two-story variation on the original roof and installed 15,000 square feet (1500 m2) of continuous solar panels for energy conservation and efficiency. A key feature of the extension is a spectacular glazed stepped ramp that serves as a vestibule and leads to the watchmakers’ changing rooms. The ramp provides an articulation between the original and new buildings. The goal: to build a headquarters and factory for Vacheron Constantin that will unite the new technologies of the 21st century and the intelligence bequeathed by the 18th century, the Age of Enlightenment; in a single architectural gesture, to offer an image of both continuity and novelty, one that is both poetic and functional. As Bernard Tschumi explained in 2001, “Imagine a fine sheet of metal, its surface worked and open, elegant and easy to curve. ” The resulting space is smooth and precise on the outside, warm and inviting on the inside. The architectural object is not closed in on itself, since the logic of the rolled form lets in plenty of direct light on the north side and filtered light on the south side, and is just as welcoming to workers and visitors.” An opening in the terrain gives a glimpse of the envelope’s metal underpinnings. This is the parking area, which is both sheltered and open to the natural light and surroundings. Above it, the form is cut open to create a peaceful and airy patio. The sweeping movement of the envelope gives the ensemble its visual and functional unity, embracing everything from production to management and design. This continuity extends to the surroundings: the sheet of metal with its inner lining stands elegantly in its well-ordered scenery that provides it with vistas. The folded sheet is delicately enwrapped. To create a tool capable of housing one of the most prestigious watchmaking brands at the turn of the 21st century, a firm whose technical and artistic feats defy the work of Time: this was the challenge represented by this project. To meet this multifaceted challenge, the architecture had to create a strong identity, immediately recognizable as the Headquarters of the Vacheron Constantin brand, design a building as a place of invention focusing on the future of watchmaking techniques and crafts, encourage the interplay of know-how and technologies, and design a building on a human scale, conceived to serve a tactile approach, since the primary value of its production is obtained by the craftsman’s hand.
Location: Geneva, Switzerland
Client: Vacheron Constantin, Richemont
Gross Floor Area: 11,000 m2
Architects: Bernard Tschumi Architects
Design Team: Bernard Tschumi, Paul-Arthur Heller, Clinton Peterson, Nicolas Grillet, Pierre-Yves Kuhn, Joel Rut¬ten, Véro¬nique Descharrières, Rémy Cointet, Emmanuel Desmazières
Local Architect: Atelier d’architecture Glauco Lombardi
Structure: MDI Ingeniéurs Civils
HVAC: Amstein+Walthert Genève
Safety and Accessibility: Securiconcept
Energy Management: Tech-Building
Metal Cladding, Curtain Wall, Windows, Glazing and Doors: Hevron
Flooring: Famaflor, HKM
Acoustical Ceilings: Trisax, MWH
Lighting : Badel
Elevators: AS Ascenseurs
Kitchen Equipment: Ginox
Internal Partitions: Trisax
Photography: © Peter Mauss
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