Silent snowflakes descend slowly onto the frozen pavement already plastered in a glossy white slush. The ice has started to accumulate in the past few weeks.
Even though the city of Lucerne itself is circa 29.06 sq km, it is one of Switzerland’s most visited tourist charms. So it’s no wonder that one can get consumed in the rapid pace of the city, especially around the holidays. However, from the view point of the outsider, Sundays are always the best as all shops are closed, and every family enjoys a quiet post-Christmas weekend to themselves. These days, my number one go-to destination is the small Inseli Park, just at the broad shores of Lake Lucerne past Pilatusstrasse, the Hauptbahnhof and the ice rink right in front of the Kunstmuseum where the best swiss glüwein can be enjoyed.
One could sit there for hours, gradually taking in the vast landscape of white mountain peaks, the solitude and tranquil presence of rusty shipyards, accompanied by the distant laughter of children ice-skating up and down the lake side. Yet somehow, with the massive Kunstmuseum (better known as KKL) looking over us like a guardian, one could never feel completely alone.
In spite of this composite arts museum, gallery, concert hall, convention centre designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel, it is very much Swiss in every essence. In 2001, it won the Borromini Prize.
To be fully honest and guilty to admit, I never admired the building for its exterior, but if we’re looking at aesthetics, only a couple of buildings in Switzerland can be said to have been designed purely for beauty. However even the most monotonous are generally all very well-constructed. Such cases would include the famous ‘Swiss chalets promoted in the nineteenth century which came in all shapes and sizes, extending from kitsch to modern minimalist. Yet, most were made from local building materials that could withstand the Alpine weather.’ (Anna Roos, Swiss Sensibility: The Culture of Architecture in Switzerland, 2017)
If KKL is not one to be loved for its looks, then it is very much a building to be admired for its physical presence and underlying ideas. With a large cantilevering canopy, it reaches out towards you like a protective parent, hugging over the lake by its thin steel roof structure that first extends caringly, then modestly disappears into thin-air.
The smooth aluminium plates of its underside, strengthen the emphasis of a light structure as the canopy steadily becomes a mirror for the frozen waters of the lake. It self-reflects with every season, as if KKL was just another participant in the flux of life.
Heavily taking in another deep breath of crisp, wintry air, eyes descending from the canopy, the whole building panorama could be observed.
To many Luzerners, the convention centre block is the ultimate part of the building. It is a set-back, almost see-through inner-city cuboid. The network of grids within the metallic structure resembles, as described by the inhabitants themselve, a ‘bird cage’ but quite a transparent one at that.
As one stands at the train station and takes a quick last glance back towards KKL, the countless mountains and mountains appear once again through a mesh of shiny, latticed fabric.