This was a study in the simplicity of building: a direct design that balanced straight, logical processes with a material reality resulting from it. The initial smirk that lead to this thought was the entrance: an almost articulated mechanism of dark folded steel steps, hooded, levitating off the tarmac predicating a departure from land in machine. The combination of structural magic and down-played sense of self set the archiphile heart alight.
Up and in, the door sweeping silently, the long vista of the raised steel walkway drew the mind in so that the body followed. This grey walkway, orthogonal grate-floored with large bracing to the sides and roof, became a grid among many. The timber space-frame’d ceiling – richly yellow and individual in twisting off the straight grid line – capped the view up. The calm whites of the Roman ruin’d walls capped the view down. And in-between this heaven above and below, the simple bands of black curtain below the gradient of the timber louvers exerted their sedimentary order. This arrangement immediately brought thoughts of geology – not hard in Graubünden where the mountains frame life in the valley with constant drama – but a psychological geography that shapes the way we think, how we are able to do with the materials to hand and informs culture. The land is that constant and the fundamental common ground (pun aside) between the present and our past: in this case the Romans.
The three varying-sized rhomboidal plans of the design encompassed three parts of the building – ruins, displays and lecture space – separate but connected by the raised walkway that punched a straight line through each. In these, a square roof light was centrally-set, rotated by 45 degrees to the plan, harnessing this idea of the hollow form with rigid outer sheath, or, in the parlance of Roman architecture, the peristyle. The depth of the skylight itself meant, together with the angle of the glass, that the viewer doesn’t perceive the light source itself – merely the effect of the light washing down the black-painted timber. I’m not going to draw any trite similes to heavenly, celestial light but only say that not being able to see the source engages the imagination. With the imagination engaged, the mind flies far beyond the physical, extrapolating a new narrative with a new set of rules. Perhaps this is the central point of interest in this architect: he engages human curiosity without hyperbole and judgment allowing the personal as much value as the academic.