Dubbed “the golden egg” by its architects, this Alpine hotel has a facade system so complex that it nearly didn’t come to fruition
The InterContinental Davos hotel in Switzerland faced more than its fair share of challenges on its seven-year road to completion. From a lost investor during the financial crisis, through a series of regulatory hoops (due to its Alpine setting), to the complex parametrics that planned its facade, and then finding a constructor willing to take on what some deemed ‘unbuildable’, it was tough; but the result is a dramatic feat of engineering.
Jokily referred to as “the golden egg” by its Munich-based architects Oikios, the ten-storey building’s rounded outer facade is comprised of 791 champagne-coloured metal panel elements – each one unique. These form balcony balustrades that overlap in a wave pattern, giving a
texture and a sense of movement acrossthe building’s surface, and diffusing the large volume. Curved balconies fill the gaps between the pinecone-like envelope and its cuboid inner core.
“If you took all the balconies away, it’s just a box underneath,” explains Oliver Hofmeister, managing director and architect at Oikios. “They [the client] said ‘let’s have an object’; they didn’t want a box, so we created this egg layer. Then, we decided to break up the eggshell to visually connect the facade with the organised structure of rooms and levels behind it.”
Hofmeister describes how, in the design stage, he took the vertical and horizontal lines of initial drawings and twisted them, creating a series of diagonal undulating strips that form the facade.
Oikios then worked with Swiss parametrics experts Designtoproduction, which dealt with the complex issue of digitally modelling this surface design over an egg shape, and structural engineers Wilhelm+Partner, experimenting with construction materials including flexible concrete and glass-coated pigments.
Finally, the firm came to collaborate with facade specialists Seele, developing the system of steel panels and supporting frame – comprising an incredible 62,000 individual elements – that allowed the project to exist within budget.
“The idea was to have a pre-produced construction put together like a puzzle,” says Hofmeister. Having such a distinctive, voluminous presence in the town, the decision as to the surface colour and finish had its own set of influences. At 1,560m, Davos is the highest city in Europe, so the finish needed to be resistant to strong UV light; but it couldn’t be too reflective, as conservationists said it would irritate the animals.
As for the colour, Oikios wanted to refer to the golden era of hoteliery by using brass, but also make an association with the natural setting. Considering the differing seasonal tones, from the bright white of winter, to the fresh green trees in spring, to the yellow tones of autumn, Oikios settled on a warm yellow/beige, with a metallic lustre to reflect its surroundings.
“Sometimes it’s more golden, or more brown, or cooler,” says Hofmeister. “It always looks different somehow.”