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Chesa Futura

Foster and Partners

The Chesa Futura apartment building in the Engadin Valley fuses state-of-the-art computer design tools and traditional, indigenous building techniques to create environmentally sensitive building. Although its form is novel, it utilises timber construction – one of the oldest, most environmentally benign and sustainable forms of building.
The building consists of three storeys of apartments and two underground levels for car parking. Its bubble-like form is a response to the site and local weather conditions. The site is located on the edge of a slope, looking down over the village towards a lake. The building is lifted above the ground on eight pilotis to ensure that all three storeys benefit from the views of the Engadin Valley and the lake of St. Moritz. Raised buildings have a long architectural tradition in Switzerland, where snow lies on the ground for many months of the year. Each floor has been widened to achieve the desired overall floor area, because there is a height restriction on the site and the ground level is not being utilized. To avoid a bulky appearance and in order to maintain views up and down the slope under and around the building, its form has been softened into curves.
The form has been refined using a specially written computer programme that has fused the building’s plan and section to create a three-dimensional volume. The digital information can also be directly exported to cutting tools to build physical models and ultimately to the machines that will make the timber building components.
In Switzerland, building in timber makes environmental sense for a number of reasons. It reflects local architectural traditions, and it contributes to the established ecology of felling older trees to facilitate forest regeneration.
The frame is constructed from glue-laminated timber beams – consisting of thin sections of wood glued together – in pre-assembled panels of 6-7 metres in length. A steel undercarriage supports the...

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