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Audemars Piguet goes Avant Garde

Culture Watch
A rendering of Audemars Piguet's new Maison des Fondateurs at its headquarters in Valee de Joux.

Bjarke Ingels is without question one of the world’s most sought after architects right now.  So who else but the sought-after Swiss Swiss luxury watchmaker Audemars Piguet to commission the young Danish architect to expand its historic headquarters with the addition of a museum, the Maison des Fondateurs.

Ingels—principal of BIG architecture studio—has been on a roll. He just snagged the coveted “Firm of the Year” award from Architizer—a top honor in the architecture industry—has numerous commissions under his belt, including the eagerly anticipated West 57th condo project in New York and two projects in South Florida. This latest commission, a 25,800-foot pavilion, will be a striking landmark that will seamlessly blend into the local landscape—somewhat of a trademark of the designer.

audemars piguet rendering maison de fondateurs

BIG created an intertwined spiral shaped pavilion which is conceived as a storyline for the visitors—blending old and new—and guiding the visitor through a linear sequence of spaces and events, from the entrance through lounges, galleries and workshops, to the attic of the heritage building in the workshop where it all began.

The design is rooted in the origins of Audemars Piguet, a family-owned company with a history of watchmaking that goes back centuries. Its deep-seeded roots is part of what spawn the design—one that is nested in the nature and culture of the Vallée de Joux, where the company is headquartered. “We are proud to announce the winning proposal of our new Maison des Fondateurs project, a new flagship for Audemars Piguet and a place for people to enjoy and share the passion of watchmaking,” says Jasmine Audemars, President of Audemars Piguet’s Board of Directors. “La Maison des Fondateurs not only symbolizes the deep connection between the brand and its origins but also its spirit of independence and avant-garde.”

Surrounded by the historical workshops in Le Brassus in the heart of La Vallée de Joux, the new museum called Maison des Fondateurs, will be imbedded in the landscape, reuniting the buildings with the undulating fields of the valley.

The intertwined spirals solve one of the dilemmas of the program. The narrative structure calls for a succession of galleries and workshops, while the logistics of operations requires the workshops to be interconnected. By coiling up the sequence of spaces in a double spiral, the three workshops find themselves in immediate adjacency—forming one continuous workspace—surrounded by galleries.

“Watchmaking like architecture is the art and science of invigorating inanimate matter with intelligence and performance. It is the art of imbuing metals and minerals with energy, movement, intelligence and measure—to bring it to life in the form of telling time,” says Ingels. “Unlike most machines and most buildings today that have a disconnect between the body and the mind, the hardware and the software, for the Maison des Fondateurs we have attempted to completely integrate the geometry and the performance, the form and the function, the space and the structure, the interior and the exterior in a symbiotic whole.”

The roof and ceiling of the pavilion is conceived as a single sheet of metal – a steel structure clad in brass, continuous in plan but undulating in section to create a series of openings allowing daylight and views to the exhibits. Towards the end of the visit the double spiral intersects the existing museum building providing access to the vaulted spaces in the lower floor and to the attic.

“I have always admired Swiss architecture for its flawless craftsmanship. Swiss buildings sometime make you suspect that they have been built by watchmakers,” says Ingels. “That we are now working directly for the family of the original founders Audemars and Piguet is going to be an amazing exploration in mastery and innovation.”

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