Still motion

The contemporary spiral-shaped glass pavilion complements the historic building, where Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet set up their workshop in 1875. (Photos courtesy of Audemars Piguet)

The construction of The Spiral skyscraper on Hudson Boulevard will result in a new landmark in New York City. For Tishman Speyer Properties, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) designed the 317m-tall office tower, which will open for business in 2022, as a classic Manhattan step-back that tapers vertically with a swirl of green spaces from base to summit.

On the other side of the Atlantic, BIG sketched another “spiral” for Swiss watchmaker Audemars Piguet. In 2014, the renowned architectural firm won a competition in expanding the manufacture’s historical premises in the village of Le Brassus, in Switzerland’s Vallée de Joux.

Its design of a spiral-shaped glass pavilion has materialised into the striking Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet, which opened its doors to the public on June 25.

The winning design is reminiscent of a movement’s spring. Inside the building, curved glass walls converge clockwise towards the spiral’s centre, before moving in the opposite direction. Visitors walk through the museum as if they were navigating the spiral of the spring inside a watch.

On the outside, the contemporary spiral construction seamlessly rises from the ground, while complementing the brand’s historic building, where Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet established their workshop in 1875.

The museum’s glass panels provide a view of the natural surroundings.

A design and engineering feat, it is the first architecture of its kind to be built at such an altitude in the Swiss Jura Mountains.

The spiral has been designed to perfectly integrate with the surrounding landscape. Floors follow different slants to adapt to the land’s natural gradient. 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.

The new building reflects Audemars Piguet’s commitment to architectural innovation, while fulfilling requirements of the Swiss Minergie certification in terms of energy efficiency and high-quality construction.

BIG’s Facebook page recently posted a video by façade contractor Frener & Reifer of the museum’s handcrafted glass panels that are able to withstand up to 80 tonnes of downward load, while providing protection through parametric solar shading.

The living museum displays a fine collection of timepieces alongside watchmaking workshops.

“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,” said BIG founder and creative director Bjarke Ingels.

His eponymous company has certainly made it big in the architectural world through numerous design projects, including museums such as the award-winning subterranean Danish National Maritime Museum wrapped around an old dock in Helsingør.

“Unlike most machines and most buildings today that have a disconnect between the body and the mind, the hardware and the software, for the Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet 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,” said the Danish architect.

The construction of BIG’s design was carried out by local architecture firm CCHE. After the completion of the museum, the two companies continue to work on the new Hôtel des Horlogers for Audemars Piguet, who plans to open it next year.

The Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet looks back on two centuries of watchmaking development in the Vallée de Joux, and presents the maison’s legacy through a selection of emblematic and contemporary timepieces, of which more than 300 are exhibited.

A bird’s-eye view of the spiral construction designed by Bjarke Ingels Group.

In creating a living museum, the collection is showcased alongside two in situ production workshops that demonstrate the brand’s ancestral savoir-faire.

“The Musée Atelier honours the Audemars and Piguet families, who were part of a very long tradition of watchmaking. The new space, together with the traditional workshops, make for the perfect meeting place where visitors can engage with us and our watchmakers, whilst learning about the brand and the history of watchmaking in the region,” said Sébastian Vivas, Audemars Piguet’s heritage and museum director.

German museum designer Atelier Bruckner imagined the exhibition’s composition as a musical score. Interludes, including sculptures, automata, kinetic installations and mock-ups of intricate mechanical movements, give life and rhythm to various aspects of horological technique and design.

A visit to the museum culminates at the centre of the spiral with the display of Grandes Complications.

“The technical complexity of its architecture and scenography connects it to the highly complicated movement of a Grande Complication,” noted Vivas.