Written by by Associate Staff Writer Maria Baumgarten, CNN London
In Paris, Charlie Chaplin was visited by Jacques Demy. In Hamburg, he took a boat with Fritz Lang. And in Waterville, Wales, he was greeted by a very different visitor: Georg Häggelin.
The German engineer and artist considered himself one of the 20th century’s most talented architects, and as such was supremely influential on some of the world’s most famous buildings.
As an architect, I know his legacy was enormous, not only for his work with Disney and Walt Disney, but for his approach to cities and design. He spent a long time creating the complex networks of sewers, roads and bridges that carry us every day, and that remain today.
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Häggelin first came to Wales in 1903 and drew pictures of its buildings for the publisher Ransdell. The drawings led to a visit from the British designer (and promoter) William Trotter, who bought the drawings and commissioned Häggelin to build a railway bridge between his house in Wales and Glasgow.
Häggelin insisted on building the bridge himself in 1915, and it served the purpose as well as his expectations. But rather than take the modeling or sonography into account, he decided instead to make the bridges look like military vehicles by employing a log-jammed crane.
Was Monaco the only place on earth not to provide official residence for monarchs? This question might never have been asked if not for a group of artists, at the tender age of 16, who commissioned Häggelin to create a village in the mountains.
Waterville Golf Club
Häggelin’s architecture and sculpture have an amazing influence on places we haven’t even thought of yet, and it is easy to see why. For example, Jacques Demy was intrigued by the hulking structures on the cliffs above in Hampshire. Häggelin’s designs have also been used as architectural inspiration for several modern skyscrapers in Germany, including the A-Bahn in Cologne, and even an apartment tower in the Mexico City skyline.
This is why Germany’s award-winning architect Ernst Braunig designed Waterville Golf Club, where I work. It’s built on the exact same site where Georg Häggelin made his monumental railway bridge in 1915.
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The style of Waterville Golf Club’s buildings — concrete and steel — could be said to be contemporary. Although modernist and Scandinavian in style, they are steeped in tradition. The shape of the building is designed around a set of circles, which were originally part of the existing building’s layout.
But what truly represents a piece of architecture that reminds us of Georg Häggelin is how the building contributes to the landscape.
Waterville Golf Club sits on a plain with views across the hills and across the sea. But the building is not situated high up in the hills, sitting on a broad path. Instead, the building has been relocated right alongside the course, so that we have an active building, meeting space and open space all within walking distance.
At the entrance, a cave-like entrance supports a gate and stairs into a short corridor, which is filled with other buildings — a cafe, a conference center, a conference hall and of course, Waterville Golf Club itself.
On the whole, Waterville Golf Club is a perfect representation of Georg Häggelin’s design aesthetic. But on one level, the entire building reminds us that we were lucky to have had his vision in Wales during the early part of the 20th century. We are fortunate to be able to admire the changes in buildings and cities — and through them, the future of the world — on a daily basis.