LAKE SHORE DRIVE
As demanded by Burckhardt, Frisch und Kutter for the reference year 1964, Switzerland ends its infrastructural provisional arrangement. The autostreet follows the railway as the main infrastructural medium of the century. The national road 3 along the south coast of the Walensee is being built on a former railway line and will be opened in mid 1964. It links the canton of Glarus with the world and inexorably shovels the masses of Swiss metropolitans into the alpine landscape. The opening of the Kerenzertunnel 12 years later, an extension by 2 lanes into a motorway, sets a provisional end to centuries of development.
Leading nowhere but north along the Walensee, the grey street winds through the landscape along the Walensee, flattening it. Jammed by forces of nature - massive rock on the left, water on the right - it makes its way and separates the two insurmountably from each other. Limited by rampart-like crash barriers on either side, it is a Corridor, surrounded by a network of villages, hiking trails and cycle paths. It forms a corridor, spatially and temporally intertwining the required mobility of the vehicle and immobility of the landscape. As a purely transitive place, made up of a abstract symbolism - it is a solely medial experience of space, stripped of any sensuality - the linking of destinations: a Non Place par excellence according to Augé.
By forming the backbone of modern civilization the Highway is more than just the flipside of switzerlands cities. It is modernisms infrastructural medium of integration. The engineer, with bold constructive thoughts, is its erector.
”(…) the 20th century reaches almost its purest expression on the highway. Here we see, all too clearly, the speed and violence of our age, its strange love affair with the machine, and, conceivably, with its own death and destruction.”
– James Graham Ballard, 1971
With the introduction of modernity to the Walensee in 1964, it was immediately affected by numerous parasitic sub-infrastructures: signage, lighting systems, emergency call points, underpasses, rockfall galleries, car parks and restaurants. The restaurant Walensee, built in 1968, represents such a parasite, a „new building task in a new form“ for a new era - but just an appendage of the street, the actual modernity of the place.
Modernity lives from constant growth, stagnation and decline are alien to it. And so infrastructural reconstruction work forced the small restaurant finally into bankruptcy. Out of the narrowness it bends over the street, its lifeline. With strict creative individuality and absolute authenticity it quietly recalls 5 all too familiar points in broken language.
Since 2003 the building has stood empty, washed up on the lake shore, left to its own devices. A lonely protagonist in a inhospitable landscape - in no man‘s land. A modern Robinson Crusoe, stranded not on a coral island, but on a concrete island. As a singularity along the transit corridor it embodies a space deprived of society. Not freely accessible, man must first submit to the car in order to reach it.
”(one could think) that someone might practice architecture with old forms, but that would have nothing to do with copying and he could even be a prophet. Conversely, most architects nowadays are copyists, only that they write off incomprehensible new forms or stammer fashionable jokes.”
– Rudolf Schwarz, 1929
“SOUS LES PAVÉS, LA PLAGE!”
The sanatorium - later the hotel - goes hand in hand with the motorway as part of a strategy of massive landscape development. Driven by tourist interests in southern Switzerland and political motives in northern Italy the Alpine outback is made accessible to the population. According to the always identical scheme, architectural diversification is contrasted with a uniformity of the traffic infrastructure: Mercilessly inscribed into the topography with a ruler or curved like the trajectory of a projectile the tracks of the mountain railways and the shipping routes on the lakes connect the Swiss hotels to the “network” of international tourist communication. The primary driving force behind this has always been the promise of healing and cure - Switzerland as a sanatorium, as a power room.
In the course of “Refurbishing Modernism”, the sanatorium is introduced as a dedicated place of modernity. A scene of urban existence, not dedicated to physical suffering, but as a place of refuge from the burdens and unfulfilled promises of that very modernity - shaped by the loneliness and uprooting of metropolitan existence.
The car as a means of access rises above the road, the dysfunctional existing access road is built over. A roundabout leads the visitor into the existing building, the heart of the sanatorium. Here, all common functions - lobby, dining room and spa - find their place through additive and subtractive interventions. In the sense of a classical three-winged complex the total of 32 rooms extends across the motorway on both sides. From the car, the smallest determinant and measure of size, the room is accessed vertically via a spiral staircase. The parking space sized room manifests the naked necessities of human existence. Above it private terraces and sanatorial gardens are situated.
Out of the direct confrontation with the motorway, the new building complexes appear as repetitively, parasitically attached columns in the street space - constituting the backbone of the new building. All infrastructural requirements are represented around the column in the sense of Gothic “services”: Water - Electricity - Drainage - Sewage - FireProtection - AirConditioning. They are superimposed onto the architecture of the motorway.