Monday, December 5, 2022

How the Bjarke Ingels Group Made Time Stand Still At Audemars Piguet’s First Luxury Hotel

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As it steps into the world of hospitality, watchmaker Audemars Piguet marries sustainability and luxury in its first hotel.

Stripped tree roots drip from the ceiling in the lobby, contrasted by fluid waves of the couch beneath and the soft metal light fixtures at the new Audemars Piguet hotel in Switzerland designed by Danish architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG).

The Hôtel des Horlogers, inspired by the Vallée de Joux, is an extension of the watchmaker’s timepieces: well-crafted, timeless, and feats in technicality and design. It’s situated next door to the Audemars Piguet museum, another Bjarke Ingels Group design.

BIG has designed projects as large as Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters, as creative as Amager Bakke, a waste incinerator in Copenhagen with a ski slope on top, and as intimate as a birdhouse-covered treehouse in the middle of a Swedish forest. The Hôtel des Horlogers is firmly somewhere in the middle of these—a creative nature-inspired feat that embraces modernity as much as it pushes it away.

Hôtel des Horlogers

“We weren’t trying to be provocative,” Mr. Ingels said at the launch, “we were just tapping into the heritage of the valley without creating a replica of what was already there. We aligned ourselves around the concept of an ‘oxymoron,’ a word I had to look up.”

Audemars Piguet had owned the 50-room inn Hôtel des Horlogers since 2005—one of two hotels in the Le Brassus village just an hour from Geneva. But it was old and failing; it was torn down in 2018 as construction began on the new property.

BIG is known for its sustainability commitments that often immerse modern design in nature elements. The Hôtel des Horlogers is no exception. It describes the new hotel as an “evolution of the hotel typology,” that “seamlessly rises from the surrounding landscape and gently unfolds onto the site.”

The Hôtel des Horlogers meets the latest sustainability requirements from Minergie-Eco, a certifying agent that works across France, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. The property, built from locally sourced materials, is outfitted with solar panels and designed to work with the natural environment instead of against it.

The interior was designed by French agency AUM Pierre Minassian. It mirrors the subtle exterior that seeks to blend into the surrounding environment. There is woodwork throughout that serves to remind guests of the nature just outside the hotel walls in an experience that’s luxury lodge meets futuristic technology, not unlike the Audemars Piguet watches themselves.

Serene designscapes

This is BIG’s specialty—a sense of serenity indoors so natural that it makes you want to go outdoors. The effects are similar at its recent Treehotel design, Biospere. That suspended hotel room is covered in 350 birdhouses inside the Swedish Harads forest.

 “I got to spend a few days and nights in some of the Treehotel rooms right before the pandemic, and left with a sense of rejuvenation from complete immersion into nature,” Ingels said in a statement in March.

“I couldn’t help wondering if there was a way to take the immersion one step further— and almost instantly the idea of inviting not only the human visitors but also the resident bird and bat population to cohabit a spherical swarm of nests came to life. After our first conversations with Ulf Öhman from Norrbotten Ornithological Association we were relieved to learn that birds don’t drop where they nest—so there is hope for the glass to remain clear within this cloud of aviary architecture.” 

BIG achieves an experience much the same here; expansive floor-to-ceiling windows in the guest rooms that all face the forest with wild animals frequently seen. The hotel also pumps scents of the forest through the hotel’s HVAC to enhance the nature experience.

Like the watchmaker’s timepieces, the hotel’s sustainability commitments go beyond just the design; sustainability is baked into every corner of the property. There’s a ban on single-use plastic. There’s no paper used, either. The restaurants, headed by three-star Michelin Chef Emmanuel Renaut of Flocons de Sel Restaurant in Megeve, and the hotel’s spa, source their ingredients locally.

There are systems in place to recycle waste and water, as well as its own bottling system for water from the nearby valley. There are a number of other efforts including refillable soap and shampoos, cornstarch straws, organic slippers and eco bedding, burlap bags, and pencils embedded with thyme seeds that can be planted after use.

Whitepod

Last December, Audemars Piguet partnered with Whitepod hotel on a sustainable nature-themed luxury suite in the Swiss Alps. Whitepod boasts 18 private pods on the Dents-du-Midi mountain range. The pods hover at an altitude of more than 4,500 feet.

The Audemars Piguet pod is built with Swiss pine that delivers a woody aroma; the structure is built with organic concrete and boasts stunning views of the Alps. An outdoor terrace features a private Nordic bath, perfect for the cold mountain temperatures.

“AP’s brand presence is discrete in the pod,” Whitepod COO Hugo Pozzo di Borgo told  Robb Report last year. “There are no watches or specific watch designs, except the bathroom is in green and gray mineral colors, related to AP’s corporate colors. However, the architecture is based on a watchmaking concept called ‘cardiac coherence.’ Ancestral mechanical watches have a rhythm, like a metronome, on which the heart beats. With the light and sound experience—three different types of music and lighting—based on this cardiac coherence, guests of the suite can relax or meditate in a natural way.”

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