June 29, 2007

Thusis, Savognin, Davos (Switzerland)




We welcomed the cooler temperatures and fresher air as we ascended back into the Swiss Alps towards Thusis.

In the Viamala Gorge we parked along side the road, and hiked down a muddy footpath to the Hinterrhein River to the Suransuns Footbridge. Designed in 1999 by structural engineer Jurg Conzett, the footbridge was impossibly thin in profile and set in a beautiful context of rushing greenish waters carving through dark rock, surrounded by trees, with the great Viamala bridge arching overhead.

The bridge was comprised of rectangular slabs of greenish granite suspended by staggered slats of stainless steel. Vertical stainless steel guardrail pickets pierced the ends of each granite slabs clear through the stainless slats, holding the structure together. The granite slabs were weathering beautifully in color, the greenish tones complementing the waters below and the reddish ends (algae?) contrasting subtly with the context. We stood in the misty rain in awe of this bridge for 30 minutes, absorbed by the beautiful aesthetic of this high-level engineering work.

We spent a day in the resort town of Davos, to visit (4) more projects by Zurich architects Anette Gigon and Mike Guyer. First was the Sport Zentrum Davos, a complex adjacent to a track and soccer field, with exterior bleacher seating, a restaurant, and offices. Essentially a rectangular box painted with bold colors and supergraphics, clad with alternately spaced vertical boards. It was clean and crisp under the surrounding mountains.

Adjacent to this was the Werkof, a city works and tourist bureau. A wood slat clad box with a cantilevered upper story on the street side, faced with alternately sized horizontal wood boards, which enriched the texture.

Third was the Kirchner Museum, a series of interconnected rectangular volumes made of concrete, glass, steel, and wood. This was Gigon/Guyer's first major commission. The exterior had textured glass panels spaced in front of horizontal running cement boards which created a diffused glow of light. The interior gallery spaces had a ceiling comprised of white translucent glass. The exhibit was being rotated while we were there, so entrance tickets were half-off. Also, there was a group of architecture students from Tulane University (New Orleans) visiting that had been granted access to the ceiling cavity above... they were kind enough to let us crawl up as well. The space above was a deep light well surrounded with glass backed by manual louvers. Teamed with a light meter, the curators could adjust the natural light levels to what was appropriate for each exhibit.

Last was the Restaurant Vinkus Um- und Neubau.. which we had trouble finding.. because it had closed. The new owners had completely changed the look of it, wiping out the supergraphics and adding painted italian motifs. It was unrecognizable. Eliminate it from your itinerary if you plan a visit.

Onward past St. Moritz to the ski resort town of Savognin, we checked into the Cube Hotel (by architects Baumschlager + Eberle (2000)). Designed to be a haven for "extreme sports" kids, each room is accessible from the lobby by mountain bike via a wide concrete ramp. The center of the Cube hotel is a large courtyard, open to all four levels and encircled by the long concrete ramp. In the ground floor lobby was a 24-hour bar, a cafeteria, playstations, and loads of lounge sofas. Below was a game room with more playstations, a climbing wall, and a relaxation room with a dank sauna. Sadly, the common areas on the bottom two levels of the building were plagued with aggressive flies and a musty sweat sock stench.

The exterior stands-out as being a reflective ice cube at the base of the mountains, with large staggered panels of glass reflecting the context beyond. At night time a series of lights and projectors make the cube glow.

Each room has an entry alcove where you can store bulky jackets, climbing gear, mountain boards, helmets, skis, bikes, snowboards, etc. These alcoves were faced with fritted glass panels and doors, with different colors on each floor, pretty slick. The rooms were minimally designed, with exposed concrete ceilings, base-less walls, and bold 2-color schemes. There were a couple big detailing mistakes... first, the shower room and toilet rooms were faced with back painted glass panels... these panels were attached to the gypsum wallboard behind with big messy globs of silicone, which were completely visible through the glass. Oops. Next the glass door of the shower had no threshold, just a gasket flap along the edge, so water would quickly puddle-up on the adjacent carpet when showering. Views were somewhat limited, as there was no deck from the room and the staggered glass panels were fixed. Not to pick on the cube, as overall we enjoyed our stay and appreciated the emphasis on design they strived for.

1 comment:

  1. Allegra!
    Loved your photos and comments on Graubunden but was surprised to see that your trained architectural eye failed to see the Blue Houses in Davos , unique architectural Bauhaus project by Carl Overhoff of Dessau.
    Best regards. M. Arpin

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