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The Swiss canton of Grisons is famous for an architectural landscape with the world’s highest density of showpiece buildings per inhabitant. Responsible for this development is Peter Zumthor, who moved to Chur in 1968 and paved the way for many colleagues to do likewise. The creative verve diminished with time, however, before Estudio Barozzi Veiga from Barcelona introduced a breath of fresh air with its extension of the Grisons Art Museum. The Italo-Hispanic team of Fabrizio Barozzi and Alberto Veiga have a way all their own of addressing any building venture: “We always approach a location in the same manner: first we want to understand it, then develop a feeling for it and finally translate all that into our way of working. We always look for specifics”.
The specifics in the case of the Grisons Art Museum primarily concerned the bond with the “headquarters” of the Grisons art collection, the listed Villa Planta (built 1874-1876). Barozzi/Veiga designed an elegant cube 58 feet high that “abstractly re-interprets the Palladian Villa Planta”. The façade, made up of specially developed square cassettes in reinforced concrete with sides 1 foot 8 inches long, connects the extension with the original building, the garden and the environs. The new building, though an integral part, is nevertheless highly distinctive. This is also why the architects heavily minimised the exterior and placed the exhibition spaces below ground.
Access to the broad, sun-soaked, sixteen-foot-high foyer is via a low glass door ensconced in a slender lofty frame. A floor-to-ceiling window to the west establishes the correlation with the Villa Planta, setting it off like a framed work of art. The architects sought to bond the two buildings together as naturally as possible. And where there are doors to be overcome, the architects quite deliberately opted for handles from the House of FSB.
Photos: Simon Menges