The project to bring tourists to the Jungfrau East Ridge, now in the planning stage, stems from the closure of a defunct directional beam station at an altitude of about 3,600 m above sea level. The site is reached from the Jungfraujoch glacier saddle via a tunnel cut into ice and rock, where the world-famous Jungfrau Railway leads from Kleine Scheidegg through the Eiger and Mönch peaks. The client wanted a design with viewing terraces, shops, and eateries in addition to an exhibition space for a special timepiece that represents a hallmark of Switzerland.
Instead of an “exhibition building” for a special timepiece, we thought it would be more suggestive to think of the architecture itself as a time machine – that is, our idea was to design a clockwork house. Because in this setting, architecture offers the unique potential for a new connection between time and space. We discussed cosmic references that arise in this place when looking out into space: the speed of light or the movements of the sun, stars, and planets. The architecture addresses these references through the sublime view but also through the clockwork, by translating them and rendering them visible.
The result is a kinetic architecture that creates its own space-time experience. The house-sized clockwork is designed as a classic mechanical pendulum clock that is powered by wind energy and thus self-sufficient. The moving parts of the clockwork are designed as spaces to enter: Visitors move through the clockwork on a promenade architecturale and experience time spatially and through the senses of hearing and touch. The two realms – of the mechanism (the function of time) and the display (the legibility of time) – become one. The mechanism also acts on the facade, opening and closing the house in the rhythm of time. The clockwork thus choreographs an interplay of vistas plus light and shadow. At night, the clockwork house can only be surmised through a slowly pulsating light from a distance.