The history of Lausanne, on the shores of Lake Geneva, goes back to the Celtic time, and its name originates in the Roman settlement "Lousonna". Today the city has a population of about 150000, making it the fourth largest city in Switzerland after Zürich, Basel and Geneva.
Let's explore its history through 11 of its architectural landmarks.
Cathédrale Notre Dame
During the Middle Ages, Lausanne was a popular destination for pilgrimages and its cathedral, consecrated in 1275, is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture. Built around the same time as Notre Dame in Paris and the Chartres Cathedral, Lausanne's cathedral is the largest Gothic church in Switzerland. Interestingly the link between Notre Dame in Paris and Lausanne continues in the 19th century when French architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc worked on restorations of both buildings. Eugène Viollet-le-Duc died in Lausanne and is buried in the Bois-de-Vaux cemetery.
Palais de Rumine
In the second half of the 19th century, Lausanne's population grew quickly and tourism started to develop. One of the many buildings constructed during this period is the Palais de Rumine. It was made possible through a gift of 1.5 million CHF from Gabriel de Rumine, son of Russian princes. It initially housed the University, the cantonal library and several museums and with the exception of the University, still does so today.
Casino de Montbenon
While the International Olympic Committee was founded in 1894 in Paris, Pierre de Coubertin moved the IOC headquarters to Lausanne in 1915 in order to escape WWI. The first building used by the IOC in Lausanne was the Casino the Montbenon, built in 1908 / 1909. And despite its name, the Casino de Montbenon was never actually used for gambling but initially housed daily concerts of the Lausanne Symphony Orchestra.
In 1994, Lausanne received the honorific title of Olympic Capital.
In the interwar years, architectural modernism wasn't missed in Lausanne, now one of the largest cities in Switzerland. Its best example is the Tour Bel-Air built by Alphonse Laverrière and completed in 1932. The mixed-use building with its 15-storey tower was one of the first skyscrapers in Switzerland.
Vaudoise Assurances headquarter
The postwar period brought a new design to corporate headquarters and the Vaudoise Assurances is a particularly interesting example. Designed by Jean Tschumi, it was built between 1952 and 1956 and includes sculptures and murals by Swiss artists. After this one, Jean Tschumi would continue to design additional corporate offices such as the one for Nestlé in Vevey, André & Cie in Lausanne and WHO in Geneva.
Théâtre de Vidy
The Swiss National exhibition is held approximately every 25 years and its fifth edition in 1964 took place in Lausanne. Expo64 presented a futuristic vision of Switzerland and attracted 12 million visitors. Théâtre de Vidy was designed by the Zurich architect Max Bill for the “Educate and Create” pavilion and was to be dismantled at the end of the six month of exposure. Charles Apothéloz, then co-director of the Théâtre Municipal, convinced the City of Lausanne to buy the building, in order to use it as an extension of the Théâtre Municipal and it is still in use today !
The 1970 led to an increased urban densification with the development of several apartment towers. This being said, the most emblematic building from this area is the city administration complex at Chauderon, built between 1970 and 1974 to plans by architects Roland Willomet and Paul Dumartheray. The more than 700 metal panels pierced with window portholes with copper reflections were designed by French architect Jean Prouvé.
The Galfetti tower is located just on the other side of the Chauderon intersection. The 8 stories high Ulysses building is the result of a competition won in 1987 by Swiss architect Aurelio Galfetti. It was built between 1991 and 1994 and, as a mixed-used project, includes shops, offices and housing.
The Flon is a river flowing right through Lausanne. It is not visible any more since it was channelled in the 19th century and the valley later later filled, leading to today's Flon district. Since the early 2000s, the previously industrial area has been converted into a one of shopping, restaurants and entertainment. Flon Ville, completed in 2007, consists of four buildings around a public square and was designed by architects Patrick Mestelan and Bernard Gachet.
Rolex Learning Center
The EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) campus is located west of Lausanne and saw a tremendous amount of new buildings constructed in the 21st century. Its most well known is the Rolex Learning Center, designed by Pritzker price winners SANAA and built between 2007 and 2009. Its library, with over 500000 printed volumes is among the largest scientific libraries in Europe.
Plateforme 10 is a new museum district in Lausanne, located right next to the main railway station. It is composed of the Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts (MCBA), the Musée cantonal pour la photographie (Photo Elysée) and the Musée de design et d'arts appliqués contemporains (MUDAC). The MCBA moved into its new home, designed by Barozzi/Veiga, in October 2019 and Photo Elysée and the MUDAC will see their openings in 2022.
In April 2022, at the LCD Berlin Awards, Lausanne was honored with the Travelers' Award 2021/22 as "Best Emerging Culture City".