In 2014, Audemars Piguet announced the results of an ambitious architectural contest for the extension of its museum, a project known as the “Maison des Fondateurs”. The winning design, submitted by the Danish architectural firm BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group), takes the form of a spiral emerging from the ground. Its walls are made entirely of curved glass and it is linked to the older Audemars Piguet building which was the original Audemars family home.
Two years of studies and preliminary work were necessary for this extremely complex design. “Our first challenge was to assemble the best partners, as it became apparent very quickly that no similar building had ever been built at this altitude,” says Sébastian Vivas, director of the Audemars Piguet Heritage Museum. 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. A life-size prototype of part of the spiral was also constructed and set up in the Vallée de Joux.
Practical work on the “Maison des Fondateurs” started at the end of August 2016. A battery of mechanical diggers, huge drills and other machines went into action around the older Audemars Piguet building where the museum is currently located. Several months of specialist work will be required to prepare the site before the first stone is laid: reinforcing the ground by drilling, constructing retaining walls, moving pipes, earthworks, etc. The project is taking shape, although it will be some time before the 2,800 m2 of the new building emerge from the ground.
The announcement of the start of work also presents an opportunity to provide a reminder of the project’s main stages, although these dates are dependent on the weather:
– September 2016 to spring 2017: preparatory earthworks and ground preparation.
– Spring – summer 2017: first stone laid, structural work.
– Summer – autumn 2017: curved glass walls fitted, then metal roof.
– Winter 2017-2018 and spring 2018: interior technical systems, heating, ventilation, electricity, finishing work.
– Summer – winter 2018: watch-making workshops fitted in the Spiral, museum displays installed. At the same time, transformation of the interior of the historic building.
– Spring 2019: opening of the “Maison des Fondateurs”.
The Danish architectural firm BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) is the creator of the project’s spiral architecture and was selected for its creativity and sensitivity to the environment, after an invitation for design proposals was issued to several local and international firms of architects. CCHE was designated as the project’s local architect and general planner. This important player from the Lake Geneva region has skills in town planning and architecture and will work in a cross-disciplinary way to monitor the project and ensure a flow of information between stakeholders, collaboration with the authorities, quality control and the execution of work. An expert in museum design, Atelier Brückner is the partner selected by Audemars Piguet to manage all the scenography, staging and showcasing of the timepieces, lighting and creation of the site visit. The German firm will bring the whole atmosphere of the new Museum to life.
“Allowing each space to express its own special atmosphere, conjuring up images, creating scenes, inviting visitors on a journey and telling them a wonderful story, the story of Audemars Piguet and the watchmakers of the Vallée de Joux, this is the scenography work that we will carry out for the “Maison des Fondateurs.” Prof. Uwe R. Brückner. The future “Maison des Fondateurs” will blend perfectly into the Vallée de Joux. The museum’s historic building, which dates back to 1868, will be retained, enhanced and linked to a radically contemporary, half-buried structure.
The basis of the visit will be an introductory route following a spiral path. Visitors will cross several themed spaces where they will discover the origins of watch-making in the Vallée de Joux, the mechanical principles of the timepieces and an exceptional collection of world premier enamel complication watches. A number of exceptional watches will be on display, many of which will illustrate the story of design and including, of course, the iconic Royal Oak.
Exhibition rooms will alternate with watch-making workshops, relaxation spaces, sound and cinema laboratories and contemporary art, making the “Maison des Fondateurs” first and foremost a place for meeting, experiencing and sharing. There will also be reception and meeting spaces and an area devoted to the professional preservation of the archives and the Audemars Piguet Foundation. Audemars Piguet invites us to the laying of the first stone in the spring of 2017!