Lausanne in 1900
Galeries Saint-François (St. François Arcade)
The Galeries Saint-François represents an important step in the transformation of the Bourg neighbourhood around the year 1900, when shops, hotels and offices replaced the palaces of the aristocracy; the construction of the Saint-François (1907-09), Rues de la Paix (1909) and Lion d’Or (1912) arcades between Rue de Bourg and Rue Benjamin-Constant strengthened the urban fabric and rendered it profitable.
The retail arcade typology appeared in Europe’s big cities in the 19th century. It optimises use of the fragmented medieval town layout by enabling a large number of windows to be aligned alongside each other on both sides of a covered walkway, offering protection from traffic and bad weather.
The Galeries Saint-François building is responding to the booming service sector; it houses shops, restaurants, offices and luxury accommodation. Its façades are different – to the north it has a neo-baroque style featuring pilasters, a cornice, a rounded pediment and cherubs. It is in keeping with the surrounding buildings. To the south, on the new city promenade created by Rue Benjamin-Constant, the façade exploits the various uses of reinforced concrete. Alternating pillars and large oriel windows, the composition reveals a vertical Art Nouveau style with British influences and elaborately sculpted decoration. Featuring a balcony and three large archways, the first floor houses a restaurant whose décor, inspired by the artistic movement known as the Vienna Secession and designed by the arcade’s architect Georges Epitaux, was destroyed in 1943.
Georges Epitaux (1873-1957) worked in conjunction with Munich architect Joseph Austermayer to build the Galeries Saint-François arcade. Epitaux designed a number of Art Nouveau and Heimatstil buildings in the Lausanne area, particularly for the Galeries Saint-François project owner, property manager Ferdinand Grillet. He also created the Chapelle de Guillaume Tell in Montbenon (1914-15).