Shigeru Ban turns to wood for Swatch
The Japanese architect says timber is 'the only renewable material' and has used it extensively in this new building
Bricks, concrete and steel are popular building materials with many an architect. Though not for Shigeru Ban, the ecologically sound architect who favours cardboard (for a cathedral in New Zealand's Christchurch), shipping containers (as post-tsunami housing) and wood.
In the Swiss city of Biel he's won the competition to extend the HQ of watch manufacturers Swatch and Omega and turn it into an enticing campus and visitor centre. His material of choice? Timber.
As he explains: "I wanted to design something very special and particularly appropriate for this city," which is at the foot of the Jura mountains. "I know that Biel is very famous for its timber technologies - they have the most advanced timber institution."
Wood also ticks some big environmental boxes for the architect. "Actually timber is the only renewable material for construction in the world," he claims. "So this is also very important for the environment of the future."
Timber will be playing a major role in each of the three buildings - the museum, the Omega production hall, and Swatch's new HQ. They'll all have a solid timber frame, with the headquarters housed in an undulating structure that snakes away from the more conventional buildings. It will make the glass office block down the road that is Rolex's HQ look very straight-faced.
Ban compares the innovation of his designs with the spirit of innovation within his client company. He points out that Swatch the brand was the invention of Nicolas George Hayek, the late CEO and chairman. "That was totally revolutionary for the history of watch making. So we tried for the project to propose something very innovative as a building."
Ban has a bit of previous with the watchmakers, having designed its Japanese 14-storey headquarters in Tokyo's Ginza neighbourhood. Let's hope this innovative relationship continues, once the new building is complete, in 2015.
To find our more, go here. For more on this groundbreaking architect, known for his environmentally sound practices and uses of innovative, natural materials, please take a look at our Shigeru Ban book.