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Casa Las Caglias

ARCHITECTURE
BY RUDOLF OLGIATI

Olgiati's architectural influence extends internationally, beyond the borders of Switzerland. His works continue to be considered seminal contributions to modern architecture, and his legacy continues to shape the design of contemporary building projects worldwide.

STYLE AND EXPRESSION

Among the architects who created defining buildings in Graubünden during the post-war boom years, Rudolf Olgiati (1910–1995) undoubtedly stands out as the most idiosyncratic. In 1944 he settled in Flims in order to steadfastly realize his vision of architecture guided by a “feeling of seeing” far away from the international hustle and bustle. In dealing with Le Corbusier, Greek temples and the regional architecture of the Engadine, he developed a unique style of expression that manifested itself virtually independently of the current trends of his time.

Olgiati's ideal of a physical, cubically conceived architecture led to sharp-edged buildings with smoothly plastered, white-painted walls, whose compactness is emphasized by plastic deformations and varying openings. The gently sloping roofs with heavy stone slabs and the reserved positioning behind the wall crowns help to preserve the physical character. Basket arches, columns as well as facade and roof cutouts reinforce the three-dimensional effect.

Rudolf Olgiati
Rudolf Olgiati
Rudolf Olgiati

OLGIATI QUARTER IN FLIMS

In 1951, Olgiati began building free-standing houses on inherited meadowland in Flims Waldhaus in the “Prau Las Caglias” area, which means “meadow with bushes” in Romansh. By 1974, an “Olgiati Quarter” with 17 individually designed buildings was built there. The ensemble shows Olgiati's creative practice under the concept of “optical objectivity” in a limited space. The buildings, harmoniously integrated into the hilly terrain, testify to his mastery of dealing with the specific location. The outstanding work of the settlement is the apartment house “Las Caglias”, which was built in 1959/60 on a rocky hill and presents for the first time the complete canon of elements used in various variations by Olgiati until his death.

LAS CAGLIAS

The structure is adapted to the terrain and forms a coherent volume. All facade views of "Las Caglias" are different from each other. The main facade faces west and is characterized and structured by the cantilevered part of the building with the loggias.

 

From the terrace-like forecourt, access leads via a sweeping, sculptural staircase to the arched entrance. The shape and size of the facade openings are carefully designed. The arrangement of these openings is harmonious on the well-proportioned and finely composed building. A crenellated roof terrace, typical of Rudolf Olgiati, tops off the façade to the east. On the south side, the building opens up to the surroundings via large windows and balconies. A portico-like construction with three striking columns is in front of the facade and marks the garden exit with a seating area. The most striking feature of the north facade is the striking protuberance that encloses a staircase. The large, cylindrical bulge, which is cut off at an angle at the bottom, abstractly evokes a wasp's nest hanging under the roof. This exceptional training is based on a building police requirement to set back the northwest corner.

 

As Rudolf Olgiati preferred, the surrounding walls consistently tower over the roof, with only one exception at the northwest corner. For economic reasons, the roof was not covered with natural stone slabs, but with galvanized iron sheet. To avoid glare and to ensure a softer appearance, the sheet metal was painted gray.

 

Rudolf Olgiati commented on his building in the trade magazine Werk in 1965. He emphasized that he tried to bring the old building tradition back to life by visually forming the outer walls as a pure shell by omitting window axes and base lines, plastered smoothly and whitewashed.

THE APARTMENT HOUSE AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE CLASSIC HOTEL

The furnishings of the studio rooms allow guests to prepare their own breakfast or a meal as a snack on an excursion. The entrance floor is occupied by an anteroom, the cellars and other ancillary rooms. From here the visitor takes the elegant staircase to the main floor. On this floor there are four furnished studios and a common room with a fireplace. These rooms open to the east, west or south.

 

There are another five studios on the floor above. These five units are consistently south-facing and are accessed via a north-facing corridor. The small rooms were not intended for luxury needs and are equipped with kitchenettes and refrigerators. Despite the small dimensions and the rather sparse furnishings, the rooms exude a pleasant atmosphere.

 

Each of the rooms has a relatively large sun terrace. The space is optimally utilized through various niches and other tricks. The great luxury of these studios is the beautiful light and the view of the landscape. The windows were made of untreated pine wood. The rooms as well as the access areas were partly furnished with historical furniture and components from Rudolf Olgiati's collection.

EXPANSION OF CASA RUDOLF

More than ten years after the completion of the “Las Caglias” apartment building, it was expanded to include the “Casa Radulff” in 1972. The "Casa Radulff", which contains eight condominiums, a café and a heated indoor swimming pool, is connected to the previous building via a staircase.

 

The newer building is located south of Las Caglias and is diagonally offset from it. The terraced forecourt facing the street is now bordered by a row of garages. From here, access to the apartments is via an outside staircase, which is protected by a Z-shaped concrete roof. On the south side, balconies and terraces also characterize the façade view of the “Casa Radulff”. The mentioned bathroom and the cafeteria are available to the residents of the two houses, although the cafe was originally designed as a public restaurant.

 

The swimming pool was cleverly inserted into the rock grotto by Rudolf Olgiati and is located partly indoors and outdoors. An arched glass gate separates the inner part from the outer area of the water basin.

 

There is indoor and outdoor access to the café. The external access is between four mighty concrete columns and via the arched entrance with glazing, which is covered by a floating concrete slab. A glazed wall separates the café from the swimming pool. The arrangement of the fireplace allows the water and the fire to be in view at the same time. The diverse furnishings of the café with historical furniture, designer furniture, selected textiles as well as brick chairs and benches, together with the careful lighting, give the room an intimate character.