June 18, 2007

Winterthur-Lucerne-Bern-Neuchatel-Geneva (Switzerland)

We spent the night in Winterthur to visit the Kunstmuseum by Gigon/Guyer. This museum addition is an elevated box made of glass channels spaced in front of horizontal bands of cementicious boards. The roof line is capped with a sawtooth-shaped galvanized sheet metal skylight run. Below, the box is supported by opposite-faced, offset glass channels that house an open-air parking garage within. Detailing is 'no-fuss,' all downspouts and gutters are concealed neatly.

Under the sunlight the greenish-blue channels form a light band around the gallery space that softens the surrounding sheet metal. The simplicity of materials and clean detailing is carried to the interior, with broad swaths of concrete used for floors, a lack of door frames & wall base, and minimized fire-suppression and lighting-control systems (see small holes within between skylights in photos). After dark the glass channels below are lit from within the parking space, emanating a cool glow.

In Lucerne we came across a slick apartment building (architect unknown) that utilized a shading system supported by an array of offset vertical dowels, additionally adding texture and depth to the facade. Downtown Lucerne we visited the Migros shopping center and club school by Diener & Diener, skinned with acid-etched metal panels and swaths of textured-greenish glass interrupted with slim, vertical sweep awning windows. The modern building was a nice contrast in the more historic context, but was severely beaten-up at the base with kicked-in and scarred-up metal panels, further damaged by cleaning solvents to remove graffiti and glued-up signs. Damn kids!

At the waterfront was the Nouvel congress center, with its impressive cantilevered roof that draws attention to the beautiful surrounding alps along the horizon. The building mass below it seemed to be comprised of too many moves on the exterior (we could not make sense of the alternately colored and offset carved masses, with their skewed and punched openings). The interior was hyper-detailed, with metal grills, stairs, glass elevators throughout the lobby. Across the street was an eye-catching addition to the Swiss railways terminal by Santiago Calatrava that also felt overly detailed. (Redundant 'artful' supports, excessive steel trusses, etc.)

The Bern Train Station (Architect?) had some undulating glue lam beams that carried a thin metal roof up from the streets down to the tracks.. very cool. On Sunday we visited the Zentrum Paul Klee museum by Renzo Piano, an organic three-peak 'wave' of steel that emerges from a field of wildflowers. Consistent with other Piano projects, the spaces were well-thought out and the building carried a "lightness" that was appealing.

In the small Swiss town of Wichtrach, we searched out a small gallery by Gigon/Guyer, the Kunst-Depot. From a distance it looks like a storage barn of made of corrugated metal, but as you get closer the level of detail begins to reveal a highly sophisticated building. Perforated corrugated steel sheets forms a screen around the perimeter of the gallery, lifted approx. 1m off the ground and is offset 1m from the exterior walls, hanging like a drape. One of the most distinguishing characteristics of the gallery is the way in which the steel sheets of the roof are folded over at the short ends of the building, almost as if done with origami paper. Gutters and downspouts are concealed along the building profile edge and behind the perforated screen, contributing to the overall 'tightness' of the project. A very impressive project, we strongly recommend checking-out Gigon/Guyer's work.


  1. Gigon/Guyer ripped me off! I did the saw-tooth museum thing back in school! Heh heh. Awesome photos!

  2. Cool, you actually saw my home town! Lucerne. Did you notice that the train station, built in 1991, did not dominate the old postal office? This was one of the city department requirements. The gate you saw on the train station square is the old gate of the 1890 built original train station. Unfortunately, the building burned down in 1971, I believe. It had a huge dome, and inside was the painting that is located at the South side of the building...


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