A new public living room is created to pass the time and offers space for meetings and relaxing.

City lounge in St. Gallen – St. Gallen is with 71.000 inhabitants the seventh largest (university)city in Switzerland. Its main attraction is its magnificent cathedral and the medieval centre with the many half-timbered houses. In November 2005 an inspiring attraction was added. In the financial centre a red carpet is spread out over three interconnecting streets and even over benches, sofas, tables, refuse bins and fountains.photo: Gerben Helleman

Private investment

St. Gallen was one of the world’s leading centres of embroidery production in the 19th Century, when the Bleicheli quarter just outside the city’s medieval old town was home to many textile factories. Today, the Bleicheli is the financial district of St. Gallen, with modern banks and insurance buildings that are more functional than people-friendly. In an effort to make the Bleicheli more lively and attractive to pedestrians the Raiffeisen Bank, Switzerland’s oldest private bank, and the city of St. Gallen announced a design competition. Swiss multimedia artist Pipilotti Rist and architect Carlos Martinez made the winning entry. They created an urban living room in a formerly soulless utilitarian space.

photo: Gerben Helleman


Where there was plain concrete and walkways within the square now are three zones covered in red, rubber-style astro turf:

  • The café — a series of blobby chairs with low-level tables ideal for a picnics;
  • the relax lounge – an area of rounded chaise lounges and sofas set back from the main thoroughfare;
  • the business lounge, a “room” of long benches with full-length tables that can easily host an outdoor meeting for 20.

Although the traffic is reduced to a minimum, there are some parking places (including a pretend Porsche packed up in red carpet). Overhead float a series of giant, opaque moons, aka “the lamps”, which glow with the colours of the night sky – orange, red, blue and violet – while also illuminating the way.

The effect is that during the day the place is buzzing with people. Children clamber over chairs, couples take a shopping break on the spongy seats, office workers grab a sandwich on a sunny day and, after work, bring their own booze for impromptu parties. And that is it’s biggest achievement. The City Lounge gives the financial centre a new, harmonious identity and brings fresh life into this part of the working city.

photo: Gerben Helleman

References and further information

Video on YouTube: http://hk.youtube.com/watch?v=nCbIXfZy-t8&feature=related

Warwick, S. (2007) Make yourself at home in Switzerland. The Guardian, August 2007.

Website Raiffeisen http://www.stadtlounge.ch/

Website Sankt Gallen – 360° view of city lounge