One of the most eye-catching Swiss construction projects in recent years is the new head office of the brand Swatch in Biel, which was inaugurated in October 2019. The spectacular free-form timber construction of the building is protected with wood protection paints from Teknos Feyco.
The striking new head office of the watch manufacturer winds its way 240 metres along the river Schüss. The building with its office and conference premises is adjoined to the likewise new construction of the exhibition center Cité du Temps with a covered pedestrian zone. The exhibition center houses the Planet Swatch Museum, the Omega Museum and the Nicolas G. Hayek Conference Hall. The design for the group of buildings comes from the Japanese star architect Shigeru Ban.
The characteristic form is created through an enormous lattice-shaped supporting structure made of wood. The 35-metre wide and up to 27-metre high construction has around 2,800 honeycomb elements. As with the timber constructions of Cité du Temps and the Factory of Omega brand, the supporting structure of the main building was also executed by Blumer-Lehmann AG, an internationally active Swiss timber company with proven experience in the digital production of freeform wooden structures.
The 11,000-square-metre construction consists of around 4,600 supporting elements. Each of these up to 13-metre-long elements is unique – no component occurs twice in the same design. The planning, production and logistics were respectively challenging. The key to the implementation was parametric planning, whereby the construction elements, nodes and connections are defined with parameters on the basis of an exact 3D model. Around 2,000 cubic metres of Swiss spruce have been processed in total.
© Swatch Group
The coating also plays an important role in the supporting structure. While the outside is hidden through the installed honeycomb elements, the wooden lattice is visible on the inside and forms a striking part of the spacial design. "The requirement was for the natural appearance of the local spruce wood to be preserved and, if possible, for it not to change even after installation," explains Felix Holenstein. "That's why we needed reliable UV protection which would prevent the wood from becoming discoloured, and where colour differences would arise in the interior space due to the differences in light penetration. In addition, blue stain inhibitors were also necessary because the underside of the construction is exposed to the surrounding air and moisture in external places like the transition zone to the Cité du Temps."
The right solution was provided by Teknos Feyco. In the design phase, the responsible timber construction engineers SJB Kempter Fitze AG carried out a sampling with various varnished structures in cooperation with Teknos Feyco. Eleven different constructions were tested overall at the Teknos site in Germany before the experts decided on a construction with TEKNOL AQUA 1410 and a topcoat with extensive UV protection. The water-based, non-pigmented wood preservative TEKNOL AQUA 1410-01 protects against wood-destroying and wood-discolouring funghi.
All 4,600 supporting structural components of the Swatch building were treated with this layout. "The coating process was carried out without a hitch, the products used were very easy to handle", recalls Felix Holenstein. "The support from Teknos Feyco was also excellent. There were still some technical questions in the preparation phase concerning the manufacturing process at our partner companies, which we were able to clarify quickly with the help of the application engineers from Teknos Feyco. The support was competent and professional."
Blumer Lehmann had previously already used the same varnish system for the visible wooden construction components of the Cité du Temps and the Omega Factory. The Swiss timber construction company has long since relied on solutions from Teknos Feyco, initially in the carpentry sector and in the last few years also for the coating of larger freeform parts. An example is another impressive reference project from the company, the spectacular mosque in Cambridge with a ceiling construction of over 2,700 freely-formed wooden elements.
© Swatch Group
© Swatch Group
Since its completion, the new Swatch building is widely seen as a promotionally effective landmark for Swatch and as the new symbol for the city of Biel, the most important centre of the Swiss watch industry. With their solutions, many people, companies and products have helped to make the creative artistic design of the architect a reality – including the wood protection coatings from Teknos Feyco.
© Swatch Group
Project: Head Office of Swatch AG (Biel, Switzerland)
Building owner: Swatch AG (Biel, CH)
Architect: Shigeru Ban Architects Europe (Paris, France)
General planning: Itten+Brechbühl AG (Zurich, Switzerland)
Timber construction: Blumer-Lehmann AG (Gossau, Switzerland)
Timber construction engineer: SJB Kempter Fitze AG (Eschenbach, Switzerland)
Digital planning: Design-to-Production GmbH (Zurich, Switzerland)
Supporting structure varnishing systems: Teknos Feyco AG (Gamprin-Bendern, Liechtenstein)
Construction time: 2014-2019
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