Lausanne in 1900
The Lausanne-Ouchy Warehouses
The two identical warehouses at numbers 19 and 21 Route de Geneve are symbolic of the railway, industrial and real estate venture that the Compagnie du Lausanne-Ouchy, founded at the instigation of Lausanne-born capitalist Jean-Jacques Mercier (1826-1903), undertook in the Flon valley between 1874 and 1915. Thanks to a series of agreements established with the city, during that period the company set up a funicular railway system for passengers and freight that linked Le Flon to Lausanne station and the Port d’Ouchy. Having acquired the land, the company developed the whole area of the valley stretching from the Grand Pont bridge to the present-day Pont de Chauderon bridge, dedicating the new area to stocking and warehousing.
Known as the “Magasins du L.-O.” ("L-O Warehouses"), the two warehouses were constructed in 1894-96 by architects Georges Corbaz and Jules Centurier for the Compagnie du Lausanne-Ouchy. The fact that they were built beyond the valley backfill area facilitated the creation of three underground floors, while another three floors form the above-ground part of the building that reveals a historicist style and imitations of the Italian Renaissance. Their set up follows the neighbourhood’s grid plan imposed by a traverser system for routing the wagons and carriages arriving from the station; the platforms and awnings are remnants of the original system.
The framework of the buildings makes use of reinforced concrete following Hennebique’s Patent, an innovative system whose Swiss agent was engineer Samuel de Mollins (or Molin, 1845-1912). He came from a family with strong ties with the Merciers. The LO Warehouses were his pilot project and received a great deal of coverage in the specialised press. In Lausanne a number of construction projects at the time were based on this internationally successful system – Hôtel des Postes, Maison Mercier, Palais de Rumine, Galeries Saint-François – and throughout Switzerland,
Nowadays, Lausanne’s underground, the Metro (m2), has replaced the funicular railways. Most of Le Flon’s housing stock still belongs to the Compagnie du Lausanne-Ouchy (now LO Holding SA). The neighbourhood has been greatly transformed since the year 2000.
The L-O Warehouses have been preserved and now house shops, craft workshops and art galleries.