Building foundations with Jean Nouvel and Frank Gehry
Even seasoned travellers welcome the insight of the right sort of local, a gently guiding hand in new territories or a fresh take on the familiar. With this in mind, Wallpaper* in collaboration with Tudor watches has produced a series of Style Files; country-specific, cliché-dodging dossiers and in-the-field notes for the contemporary explorer who really knows where they are going.
The clichés of national identity have some grains of truth to them: French romanticism, German exactitude, Italian flair, and so on. But what of Switzerland? Outside of its watches' mechanical precision and the bold simplicity of Helvetica, its aesthetic pitch might appear too understated for its own good. ‘It’s an essential style,’ says Bénédicte Montant, ‘thoughtful and coherent but also discreet – which are all deeply cultural values here. It has no need to make a noise to assert itself. But there is also a special sense of humour.’
Montant and Carmelo Stendardo set up Atelier d'Architecture 3BM3 in 2000 in their native Geneva. ‘We work on urban projects, whether they be for private individuals, communities or institutions, to the smallest possible detail,’ says Montant. ‘Sometimes we go so far as to draw the furniture. Architecture is a real passion.’ Stendardo echoes the sentiment. ‘In what other profession can your work tools be pencils, models, cardboard and even Lego?’ he says. ‘There is an immense satisfaction in working in a perpetual search for solutions to architecture’s many constraints, be they economic, legal, technical, cultural or spiritual.’
Certainly, there is a religious fervour in Montant and Stendardo’s shared passion. Ask them to name their favourite buildings and they cite Franz Füeg's St Pius Church in Meggen, near Lucerne, and Peter Zumthor’s Chapel of St Benedict in Sumvitg. Ask them what they couldn’t live without, however, and the selection is far more sensory than spiritual and, at last, characteristically Swiss. For Montant, it's Toblerone, while for Stendardo only the darkest chocolate, preferably with a touch of orange zest.