Vacheron Constantin Headquarters and Watch Factory, Geneva, Switzerland, 2004

Bernard Tschumi Architects

Location: New York, New York | Paris, France
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Bernard Tschumi’s architecture “is not simply about space and form, but also about event, action, and what happens.” This idea, derived from his influential Manhattan Transcripts, a series of drawings and photographs done in the late 1970s, encapsulates his most recent body of work. From small residences to urban interventions, Bernard Tschumi Architects is interested in exploring unlikely confrontations.

Inherent in each of Tschumi’s projects is a theoretical discourse which often questions certain building conventions and relationships. For example, in his most recent book, Event-Cities 3: Concept vs. Context vs. Content, Tschumi discusses the relationship between context (location) and concept (the overarching idea) and the circumstances under which one might override the other; and whether concepts precede content or the programmatic requirements of the building take precedence.

In the sleek factory and headquarters for Vacheron Constantin, the architect’s concept is based on the idea of a thin, flexible envelope. The exterior surface is formed from an immense and pliant metallic sheet which unrolls over the building like a conveyor belt, connecting the taller administrative tower with the shorter factory. Context and content are neutral; it is the concept that becomes key. Conversely, the University of Cincinnati Athletic Center stands as a “contextual free-form,” using an unusual boomerang shape to maximize space within the tight site constraints. Other contextual constraints contributing to the architectural concept include the trusses needed to provide the clear spans, and which ultimately become a diagonal patterning and the façade’s mullion structure.

With the Concert Hall in Limoges, France, Tschumi reintroduces the general envelope concept, but recontextualizes it and offers material substitutions. Limoges is based on his concert hall in Rouen, France, but instead of concrete, the hall in Limoges uses an exterior skin of wood because of its location within a large forest. This powerful body of work, realized over the last several years, gives physical form to an architectural discourse that has made Tschumi a leading theorist of his generation.