It’s hard to appreciate the scale of ‘The Swatch Group Ltd’ if you don’t work in the industry. To the layperson, Swatch is probably synonymous with trendy fashion style watches. However, within their portfolio are brands like including Blancpain, Breguet, Glashütte Original, Harry Winston, Jaquet Droz, Longines, Omega, RADO and Tissot. They also employ 36,000 employees globally and have a turnover in excess of 7.533 billion Swiss Francs. That it is no surprise they have commissioned world-famous architect Shigeru Ban to design their new headquarters.
Previously I wrote a review featuring Shigeru Ban’s Aspen Art Museum (for a blog called My Aspen Rental) and am a huge admirer of his work. The Swatch and Omega Campus involved 8.5 years of design, engineering, and construction. It is also one of the largest mass timber buildings in the world spanning 46,778 square metres (503,514 square feet). As well as being sustainable (100% Swiss certified timber, primarily spruce) it truly is master class in modern architecture.
One of the main reasons I was enticed by this formidable building is the choice of materials. Presently, I am co-writing my 8th book about commercial timber frame buildings. Certainly, many architects feel this renewable fabric is the future of construction. For Shigeru Ban, it was his global humanitarian work that inspired him to use wood for this project.
The project comprises three buildings: The Swatch Headquarters, Omega Factory, Cité du Temps. All of the buildings promote well-being and have an enormous amount of aesthetic merit. My favourite element is the formidable gridshell roof structure (The Swatch Headquarters) that consists of 7,700 unique timber pieces. This was achieved by a specialised computer program that worked to tolerances of 0.1 mm.