Chesa Futura

Chesa Futura in St. Moritz, Switzerland by Norman Foster and Partners

Upon first glance of the renderings for the Chesa Futura apartment building in Switzerland's Engadin Valley, it is difficult to believe it is the work of London's Norman Foster and Partners. Although the architect's work in recent years has embraced forms that veer from the orthogonal, the overt "blobbiness" and choice of materials stand apart from his recent oeuvre.

Situated on a slope overlooking the town of St. Moritz, Foster refers to the form as novel, though the building is responsive to its site in ways that dictates its form. The image above illustrates the large south-facing openings with balconies that face the lake and surrounding mountains. Likewise the north side responds to the sun, or lack of, with smaller openings and greater thermal mass. The form enables openings to wrap the building so the vista is greater than a flat wall.

Foster chose timber for the building's exterior for two reasons: timber is the indigenous architectural material in the area and it is a renewable resource, aiding the environment through carbon dioxide consumption while growing. Also, since the timber is locally forested, very little energy is used in transporting the material. Over time the larch shingles will show their age, coloring to blend in with the surroundings, appearing to grow like the neighboring vegetation.

The building is raised above the slope on angled pilotis for various reasons: to avoid timber rot from excess moisture, to maximize views and to "reinstate the rocky texture and scale of the mountain terrain beneath the building". A cylindrical core leads to a level of underground parking and storage.

Hopefully the materiality of the final product, as seen in the construction photo above, will lend the building a less "alien" quality in the landscape than the renderings indicate. Regardless, Foster's past work illustrates that a building's environmental aspects are just as important as its aesthetics.