Visitor center Château Chillon
Karamuk Kuo Architects
The water castle Château de Chillon stands on a rocky island on the eastern shore of Lake Geneva and attracts many international visitors all year round with its picturesque setting. In order to cope with the influx of tourists, the Fondation du Château de Chillon launched a competition for a visitor center. The aim of the competition entry by Karamuk Kuo Architects was to contrast the historical backdrop with the help of a modern structure and to blend naturally into the landscape. The building form subordinates itself typologically to the castle and takes up the irregularities of the fortress architecture, which has grown over centuries, through a modern interpretation. As a professional agency for architectural visualisations, Loomn created several images for the competition. The resulting visualisations by Loomn capture the romantic motifs of the site in the evening light and emphasise the contrast between old and new. The competition for the new visitor centre called for an intervention at two radically different scales. A kilometre-long boardwalk connecting the various infrastructures and access points, and a small service building with three main functions: Museum shop, a café and public toilets.
The new building emerges from the row of old garden walls and takes up an existing flight of steps as part of its sequence of experience and discovery. It appears slender and monolithic, like the existing wall infrastructure, and connects the two public levels. The monolithic expression hides two different experiences. It is an infrastructure that supports the public functions of the castle, but also one that gives spatial definition to the site. Together with the existing entrance bridge and the bazaar, it completes the trio of small service buildings that mark the arrival at the castle. The building takes the existing height difference and physically reunites the street level with the existing sunken garden, while leaving each its own character. The shop is introverted, a high, flexible space that only occasionally allows a glimpse of the context outside, reinforcing the physical presence of the castle as you leave. The cafeteria is a destination, with its prime location opening onto the terrace and its picturesque view of the castle and the lake, the architecture becomes a frame for the context. The interior is dark and warm, receding into the background while providing an intimate atmosphere from which to enjoy the splendour of the castle. The long and slender space ensures that every table can be equally in touch with the view. The dark surfaces and low ceiling draw our attention to the vivid panorama of the world outside. To bring back the sense of mystery, the project proposes a radical reforestation of the waterfront. This will use dense foliage in combination with perennials to unify the otherwise eclectic mix of functional elements and reimagine the setting as a primeval forest. The raw informality of the forest is a robust and complementary response to the majesty of the castle. It was important to the architects neither to imitate nor recreate an "ideal" historical period for a castle that has evolved and grown over many centuries. Rather, the aim was to engage with it from a timeless and experiential point of view - to create a setting and infrastructure that emphasises the character of the visit while retaining its own ground.