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Technical environment

Technical environment

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Swatch headquarters and Cité du Temps, Biel / Switzerland, Biel, Switzerland

At the centre of time – ERCO illuminates Swatch headquarters and Cité du Temps, Biel / Switzerland

Shigeru Ban designed the new headquarters for the Swiss watch producer Swatch and the adjacent Swatch and Omega Museum as two aesthetically contrasting buildings. The playfully organic form of the Swatch building docks onto the classic body of the so-called "Cité du Temps" cuboid construction. ERCO LED luminaires illuminate both buildings according to their differing functions: cardanically adjustable Gimbal recessed floodlights generate glare-free general light for the office areas in the Swatch building. Parscan spotlights accentuate the exhibits in the Swatch and Omega Museum in the "City of Time".

The Japanese architect Shigeru Ban has made a name for himself on a global scale with pioneering designs using cardboard and timber. At the Swatch and Omega campus in Biel, the Pritzker Prize winner with offices in Tokyo, New York and Paris has now realised his largest wood-based building complex to date: a total of 4,600 cubic metres of renewable raw materials were used to create the Omega Factory, the new Swatch headquarters and the neighbouring building with a conference hall and exhibition areas – the so-called "Cité du Temps". The highly impressive shell of the new Swatch headquarters with its organic shape and scale-like structure that is reminiscent of the body of a snake, consists of 7,700 timber elements. Each one was prefabricated to precise dimensions to enable quick and problem-free assembly on location. The wooden grid construction is filled with different honeycomb forms – the "scales" act partly as window elements, partly as solar panels or acoustic elements and also function as air-filled honeycombs for cooling and heating purposes. They support the sustainability of the architecture, ensure low energy consumption of the building and contribute to a pleasant working atmosphere. The open plan structure of the three office floors below the organically shaped shell is also designed to promote good communication between the employees.

Swatch headquarters and Cité du Temps, Biel / Switzerland

Glare-free general lighting discreetly integrated into the architecture:
cardanically adjustable Gimbal recessed floodlights from ERCO

"The snake-like Swatch building is illuminated both functionally in line with its various uses, and also with architectural accents," explains lighting designer Roland Block, the project manager at Reflexion AG. "The lighting concept is integrated into the architecture as discreetly and unobtrusively as possible in order to enhance it to its best advantage." Glare-free general lighting with a warm white 3000K colour was particularly important to the lighting designers.

Swatch headquarters and Cité du Temps, Biel / Switzerland

For this purpose recessed floodlights were installed, akin to light points, in the centre of the wooden grid construction's honeycomb units. The housing colour of the recessed Gimbal floodlights was matched to the colour of the ceiling honeycombs as part of the „ERCO individual" service. In addition, all luminaires were fitted with a special plug connection that could be quickly and simply plugged into the flat ribbon cables laid in the ceiling structure.

Gimbal's cardanic swivel mechanism enables its light beams to be precisely aligned to the curved shell of the building. The glare-free general lighting of the office floors, adapted via DALI to the specific daylight situation, is supplemented by indirect illumination of the building shell with Parscan spotlights and wide flood distribution (approx. 50°).

Swatch headquarters and Cité du Temps, Biel / Switzerland

A pedestrian bridge connects the two buildings at the point where the organically shaped shell of the Swatch headquarters docks onto the cuboid Cité du Temps construction. Parscan spotlights in the interior and Kona projectors in the exterior zones create spectacular effect lighting for the architecture.

Accentuated lighting of the exhibits in the Swatch and Omega Museum of the Cité du Temps: ERCO Parscan spotlights

The lighting designers opted for exhibition lighting using a track infrastructure in the Swatch Museum and Omega Museum, each occupying one floor of the Cité du Temps building. Parscan spotlights with 12W LED modules illuminate the exhibits. According to the situation, the luminaires are equipped with interchangeable spot (approx. 15°) and flood (approx. 30°) Spherolit lenses. Specific timepiece models and details are highlighted with narrow spot distribution (approx. 6°). "For the lighting in the exhibition areas we specified a warm white 3000K colour as the primary light source in order to optimally render the colours of the exhibits, but also the timber structure of the architecture," says lighting designer Roland Block. "The exhibition planners from tokyoblue GmbH also partially use accents in a 4000K neutral white light colour." This allows the various materials of the valuable watches, such as different shades of gold, to be ideally accentuated.

Swatch headquarters and Cité du Temps, Biel / Switzerland

About the author:

Kristina Raderschad has run an editorial office in Cologne since 2005. A qualified interior designer (Dipl.-Ing.), her articles, reports and interviews on architecture and design are published worldwide – in magazines such as AD Architectural Digest, ATRIUM, ELLE DECORATION, HÄUSER, AIT or WALLPAPER*.

Luminaires used

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