Sport Zentrum

Sport Zentrum in Davos, Switzerland by Gigon & Guyer, 1996

Gigon & Guyer are part of the growing younger generation of Swiss architects with a strong tectonic and aesthetic sense toward designing boxes. Their sport center in the Swiss Alps gives the town of Davos a cultural center that transcends its current landscape of commonplace condominiums. Their first commission in the town, an art museum, exhibited their intelligent and artistic use of glass, while this second commission focuses on wood and concrete. In each case the choice of materials is appropriate to the program.

The center is made up of restaurants, offices, sports surgery, apartments for guests attending sport's workshops, and a grandstand. This last piece gives the building its most notable expression, giving depth to its facade while shading interior spaces behind it. The other elements are contained within two parallel bars that overlap each other to create unified circulation and programmatic separation. Restaurants and support are situated on the ground floor, with sport's facilities one floor above and apartments on the top floor. Each use is expressed on the exterior, though simultaneously creating a unified facade composition. Bare concrete and two layers of wood cladding, the inner (spruce) painted yellow and the outer (larch) untreated, are arranged in a complicated arrangement that surprisingly creates a pleasing exterior. Variations in solid and void, coupled with the different layers of materials and colors, reveals the architect's aesthetic sense, bordering on graphic design.

The interior reinforces their strategy: planes and areas of color composed with artist Adrian Schiess. The use of yellows, greens, blues, oranges and greens, contrasted against both exposed concrete and natural wood furniture echo the exterior in its complexity and repetition. Mainly the rampant colors create interesting spaces and help to orient the visitor (yellows toward the grandstand, for example). At times the desire to cover most surfaces with color gives the sense of walking through a life-sized psychology experiment, where colors never exist as they are but are always seen in relation to another color.

Even though the limitations of the architect's graphic sensibilities are evident (both in the facade and the two dimensional approach to interior spaces), the building manages to overcome these shortcomings in a pleasing composition. Combining this approach with a strong use of materials seems to be Gigon & Guyer's ticket to designing successful buildings. And although their buildings may never garner masses of awards or international acclaim for the architects, it would be difficult to denounce this structure as bad architecture, nor one that should go away.