By Ulf Meyer
The characteristic oval shape and the almost scale-like facade – made of the twisting ribbons that form the balconies – makes the new InterContinental Hotel in Davos, Switzerland, designed by Munich-based architecture office Oikos Architekten, a striking landmark. Like a giant, shimmering pinecone amidst snow-clad pine trees of the Swiss Alps.
Although the small mountain town of Davos is not short on luxury resorts, the InterContinental Hotel with its shiny metal façade that seems to be flowing above ground stands out from the rest. The hotel’s undulating envelope wraps around the structure, creating an interplay between open and closed surfaces which appears different from every angle. The name of the parcel of land on which the hotel stands is “In der Stilli” (meaning “in the quite” in Swiss German) – reflecting the tranquil and peaceful surroundings of the new hotel.
The shape of the hotel was inspired by a smooth-scaled pinecone. During the design phase, Oikos partnered up with the digital modelling firm designtoproduction – who designed the geometric pattern of the façade – as well as structural engineers Wilhelm + Partner and façade specialist Seele Corp.
The team developed the façade with three-dimensional, curving spandrel panels made from steel. The laser-cut primary and secondary ribs are based on a square. It is this supporting frame – with a main grid identical for all elements – that creates the three-dimensional curvature. The frame is covered on all sides with steel sheets – just 3 mm thick and coated in a champagne-colored metallic finish.
The steel construction proved to be less costly and less susceptible to changes in length due to temperature fluctuations compared to other materials such as aluminum. It enabled the intended geometry to be built with great precision. The ribs of the supporting structure allowed a new concept for the structural fixings and the transfer of loads to the floor slabs.
The true challenge was the logistics for the 791 spandrel panels – with more than 62,000 individual pieces including the dome crowning the hotel. The manufacturing and assembly was managed by automated procedures in design and the preparation of fabrication drawings. All requirements were incorporated in a parameter-controlled script.
A 3D model of the façade was imported into programs for producing the drawings and laser-cutting data. The 3D data could also be used by the structural engineers for their calculations. Each panel is unique and each has an identical, square, steel rib construction, so the elements could still be produced rather economically according to a modular system. The elements come in standard sizes of 1.6 x 4.5m and special sizes up to 14.6m long. Every façade element had its own transport frame so that it could be transported to Davos by road from the production plant in Plzen in the Czech Republic.
While the Zauberberg, as described by Thomas Mann, for the time being remains the most famous – albeit imaginary – hotel in Davos, Oikos’ InterContinental Hotel is an interesting German take on Davos’ well-established scene of luxury hotels and resorts.