When he speaks of the beginning of his involvement with Du Parc, Brönnimanns enthusiasm is infectious. The renovation of this building was a chance not to be missed: a historic building, a unique natural setting. It is his vision of what could be realised here that has constantly motivated him: Du Parc brought into the modern era, yet retaining all the style and flair of its own time set in sweeping green grounds, with majestic views over Lake Geneva.
Inside and out, there were challenges, but Brönnimann was able to draw on original photographs, engravings and records from the hotels heyday to guide him.
He was also aided by the original features that had survived the ornamentation on the façades, for example, or the Bel Étage a key feature of Belle Époque palaces, as Brönnimann explains: The ground floor was typically the largest floor of such buildings, and so it is at Du Parc with its lobby, lounges and majestic staircase. Thanks to the historic records, these areas have been fully replicated to the original plans of Du Parc. All the original interiors are now locally listed as sites of historic significance, and Brönnimanns team is working closely with interior designers to develop a design concept in perfect keeping with a Belle Époque palace hotel.
In the original photographs, its Du Parcs highly ornamental roof that really stands out, and restoring this structure has been Brönnimanns favourite part of the project. Its also a case in point for his approach to the entire project: a combination of respectful restoration, and environmentally-conscious modern building standards. Nowadays, its unusual to have the chance to construct such a large roof with all the period features the shape, the details and ornamentation of the windows, the skylights.
Where modern standards are higher, though, Brönnimann hasnt been afraid to introduce new elements to accommodate them. Du Parcs penthouses
are housed under the restored roof, with vast windows and spacious balconies added to the original designs to take full advantage of the stunning views. Modern environmental concerns are also never far from his mind: The Minergie
building standards that we have adhered to throughout the build required us to install significant insulation in the restored roof, making Du Parc highly energy-efficient.
Swiss building standards are exceptionally high, particularly where energy savings are concerned. This was a challenge for Brönnimann, ever-keen to retain the original look and feel of the building. It can be difficult to reconcile these modern requirement - triple glazing, ventilation, insulation - with the existing building We had to be very precise in our studies to reconcile and maintain the original dimensions with the space required for new techniques and different thicknesses of insulation.
The result of his efforts is a building which tells the story of Swiss architecture throughout the past 100 years, and which combines the two classically Swiss principles of fine design and technical rigour. Brönnimann finds a clear comparison here: Du Parc is to architecture what the most complex Swiss watches are to timekeeping.
Its a bold claim - but a justified one.