La Verrière, Montreux, Switzerland
Located on the banks of Lake Geneva, the city of Montreux benefits from a particularly gentle climate giving it a Mediterranean character. It has become, since the 19th century, a popular tourism and pilgrimage destination, especially for a affluent international visitors. This city is well known for its elegant hotels and residences facing the Lake. The project called “La Verrière” consists of the renovation of a long and narrow existing building distinctive mainly for the glasshouse—an old winter garden located at its west end—that was integrated to the renovated part of the project. Inserted between this ancient masonry building, just behind the famous “Montreux Palace,” and the train tracks leading to the Montreux station, two tall residential buildings were erected, with their back leaning on the railway and their main façade completely open towards the lake. For these new constructions—two glass and brick volumes inserted into the sloping terrain and supported, at street level, by a series of concrete pilotis—the main architectural challenge was to break slightly from a traditional apartment typology of single-level dwelling units in order to provide floor heights appropriate to the proportions of living spaces. To do so, each apartment is composed of two different levels. Facing the lake, are living rooms with dramatic ceiling heights, while rooms surrounding the interior courtyard – bedrooms, baths kitchens, and dining rooms – have average ceiling hieghts. A series of two different typologies perceptible mainly through the project’s section thus overlap, both vertically and horizontally. In order to rationalize construction and articulate the “L” shape plan of each flat into a compact volume, all flats were distributed around a generous inner courtyard, the sides of which are composed of glass bricks to allow maximum income of light into the circulations and creating interesting shadows as the inhabitants move around their respective homes. The facade facing the lake, all in glass, is protected by a series of horizontal shades located at the edge of the balconies, blurring the distinction between inside and outside and conveying a sense of lightness to the whole.