In 2011 Shigeru Ban, winner of the Pritzker Prize, won the Swatch Group’s architectural competition for the new Swatch headquarters, the new Omega Manufacture and the “Cité du Temps” in Biel/Bienne. Opened in 2019, the headquarters promise to become an effective advertising landmark with an exceptional radiance. The sensational design breaks with the conventions of classic office building architecture and connects the buildings of the Omega and Swatch brands not only via the “Cité du Temps” but also with a spectacular free-form structure made of a gigantic wooden lattice shell. This 240 m long, curved wooden construction is already the fourth project that Shigeru Ban has realized together with the Swiss timber construction specialist Blumer-Lehmann. For Blumer Lehmann, this construction, with an area of 11’000 m², was the largest lattice shell ever realized in the company’s history.
At its highest point, the façade measures 27 metres. The traditional material was chosen for its ecological and sustainable properties. Wood can also be processed flexibly and cut with extreme precision – important properties for a construction where millimetres matter. During the planning phase, modern 3D technology helped to define the exact shape and positioning of the 4’600 beams of the wooden lattice shell. The individual beams were connected to each other with an ingenious plug-in principle to ensure a perfect fit. Since the wooden lattice shell of the Swatch building serves as a large-area office façade, it also had to meet various technical requirements. A complex network of cables is discreetly integrated into its structure. Production and assembly – as well as the planning – were a challenge for all those involved: in order to meet the assembly deadline, the elements were manufactured on five different production lines, some of which were operated in four shifts.
Architecture: Shigeru Ban Architects Europe, Paris; Itten+Brechbühl AG, Basel and Bern
Wood construction company: Blumer-Lehmann AG, Gossau (SG)
Wood engineering: SJB.Kempter.Fitze AG, Eschenbach (ZH)
Photo credits: Philip Zinniker & Didier Boy de la Tour