Sunday, January 22, 2017

Alvar Aalto in Switzerland

Site No. 61: Schönbühl Apartment House in Lucerne / Switzerland (1964-67)

Grüezi and regards from Switzerland where I just recently visited a new Alvar Aalto site in the beautiful city of Lucerne. While Lucerne is famous for having the world's oldest surviving truss bridge (built in 1333), which is one of the main tourist sites in Switzerland, it also features a building designed by Alvar Aalto.

Probably less well-known and also not located in the historic centre is the so called Schönbühl high-rise apartment house that Aalto designed and built here in the mid-1960s. The building is located in the Schönbühl quarter, about 2 kilometers from the historic center. One can reach the site either by bus or by a 20 min walk from the historic center, all you have to do is to follow Tribschenstrasse.

The 16 stories building itself is the largest in the area, so you hardly can miss it. The actual high-rise apartment building is part of a larger complex that also contains a shopping center, the so-called Schönbühl Center.

The Schönbühl high-rise building follows the prototype of the better-known Neue Vahr high-rise apartment building Aalto designed in Bremen / Germany. Both buildings feature a so-called fan-like arrangement of the apartments in order to optimize space in the buildings and within the apartments.

While the staircase and elevators are on the north side, the building opens up towards the south like a fan where also all the large windows and balconies are located that bring light into the apartments. I think this is once again an interesting example of Aalto's genius design in terms of optimizing space and natural light.

The building itself differs from other high-rise buildings of that time certain through its wave like shape. Nevertheless, the building fits in my opinion very well into its surrounding. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to enter the building and to discover the interior as only people living in the building can gain entrance to the building and I didn't want to interfere with tenants and disturb their privacy.

Finally before returning to the historic center of Lucerne I noticed that there are new construction projects under way right next to the actual site presented in this post. It captured my attention because the new buildings, that are going to be build in the neighborhood, are also designed by two Finnish architects which are following the traditions of Alvar Aalto. It is nice to see that Alvar Aalto's legacy endures, not only in Finland but also beyond.