Caruso St John Architects

Location: Spiez, CH
Client: Vigier Management AG
Project Status: Study

The site at Kandergrien is where the river Kander flows into the Lake of Thun. It is where the meeting of mountain and water is interrupted by a river delta, at the boundary between the stable geology of rock and the more dynamic one of gravel being shifted by water. We seek to articulate these specific conditions in a project whose spatial qualities come directly out of this special place by the lake. In order to fully engage with the spatial potential of the site, we suggest that it be developed as a grand estate. A few ways onto the site that give access to a small number of large buildings, each with a specific relationship to the Lake’s edge and each with its own views of the surrounding mountains. It is our intention that the experience of living on the delta is akin to Hadrian’s life in his villa outside Rome, where the appearance, scale and disposition of the buildings are an integral part of the image of the site, where trees, water and ground contribute to a continuous, richly varied and sensual experience of being in the Villa. We also want living by the lake to be like inhabiting a simple cottage by the coast in New England or Finland, where one can easily walk to the water’s edge to have a sauna and swim, or to take the boat out, one can wander amongst the trees with the dogs, or set out for a tough ride on the mountain bikes. In fact we want the site to support the lifestyle of the grand estate and of the private country house, a way of living where each individual and family has equal access to the amenities that the site has to offer.

The character of the site is primarily given by a new landscape of trees. The trees are principally pines and alders, the indigenous trees of the delta, species that once covered most of the delta. Within the courts and the gardens of the big buildings, the alders give way to tamarisk and other fragrant species, providing an intimacy to the character of those places. It is intended that the ground of the site is open and accessible, so that only the roads are sharply delineated. The gravel of the delta is exposed to make a ground surface, with areas of fine bonded gravel providing paths and access to the housing. Carpets of ferns alternate with tennis courts, the heated swimming pool and playgrounds, places that lend a finer scale to the landscape’s floor.