Switzerland has long been famous for its watch design, but this spring the most exciting new design in horology isn’t one you can wear. In May, Audemars Piguet will open its Musée Atelier in the Jura Mountains, north of Geneva, a ruggedly beautiful region that’s home to some of the world’s top watchmakers. Danish architect Bjarke Ingels and his BIG design firm were handpicked by the luxury brand to create a spiraling museum entirely supported by curved glass walls—no small feat. The museum’s historic building, which dates back to 1868, is juxtaposed with the new radically contemporary, halfburied structure.
The 25,800-square-foot space will incorporate exhibition spaces (with 400 watches on display), workshops and its archives—open to the public by appointment. Ingels, who’s best known for designing two futuristic Copenhagen apartment complexes and the M/S Maritime Museum of Denmark, has recently broken out with some incredibly inventive and momentous buildings. From the twisty turvy 59-story residential tower Vancouver House in Canada, to a 180,000-square-foot public school called The Heights Building in Arlington, Virginia and a Scandavanian style private home in Latin America, Ingels is emerging as the international architect of the moment. For Audemars Piguet, Ingels dreamt up a contemporary landmark that fits in seamlessly with the local scenery, and pays tribute to the history of the brand.
“We wanted visitors to be inspired by the heritage of Audemars Piguet and of the Vallée de Joux at large, but also to experience the incredible work of our watchmakers,” says Olivia Giuntini, the company’s chief brand officer. “The Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet unites past and present and anticipates where we go from here.” The challenge for this particular project was to assemble the best team, as it became known that no similar building had ever been built at this altitude. Engineers, architects and museum designers searched for innovative solutions, both in terms of scenography and the building’s structure and resistance to the climatic conditions of the region. But, Audemars Piguet isn’t the only lifestyle brand for which BIG has been tapped to design a headquarters.
Italian company San Pellegrino has also commissioned the firm to create its flagship in the Bergamo region of Italy, set to begin construction soon. And when Toyota—the world’s largest automaker—wanted someone to design a futuristic city to test their autonomous vehicles in Japan, they turned to Ingels to create a city plan to for its driverless cars called Woven City, a 175-acre site at the base of Mount Fuji, outside Tokyo. Considering the stunning results of his work for Audemars Piguet, you might say that his time has finally come