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Lausanne – the city that encourages you to be late

You came home late because you decided to take the next train? Then Chantal Prod’Hom has achieved her objective. The Director of the Musée de Design et d’Arts Appliqués (mudac) and President of Lausanne’s new cultural district works towards alluring you out of the train station and onto ‘PLATEFORME 10’.




It is a hot summer day in Lausanne. The capital of the Swiss canton Vaud, beautifully nestled on the shore of Lake Geneva, is Chantal Prod’Hom’s hometown. The Director of the Musée de design et d’arts appliqués contemporain (mudac) and President of Lausanne’s new cultural district PLATEFORME 10, however, does not suffer from the heat. She takes her place in between the carefully selected design artworks and speaks enthusiastically about Lausanne’s future.        

What do you love about Lausanne?
Chantal Prod’Hom: Lausanne is my hometown, so of course I have a very privileged relationship with this city. First of all, I like its contrasts: The foreground is urban, then your eye moves to the lake, mountains and sky. You end up in a completely different world. Furthermore, I like to wander the streets. What is unique about this city is that its inhabitants need to be quite athletic to master the constant up and down hill. But most of all I love the dynamics, especially in culture, since this is my field. Lausanne is a great harbour for me to come back to when I am travelling around the world. I believe that when you like to come back to a place, it’s a very good sign.

Is Lausanne a future city?
The future is something you cannot simply plan. It happens when the right people meet in the right moment and currently we are experiencing great vibes in terms of what’s going on. For a city with 140 000 inhabitants we have an exceptional cultural life. This is very unusual and an incredible privilege. To be part of this, to be an actor in it, is an even greater privilege.

What is PLATEFORME 10?
Lausanne train station has nine platforms. They are connected by an underground passage through which, by 2025, you will arrive directly onto PLATEFORME 10. On this ‘platform’ we will unite three museums and two foundations: the Musée cantonal des Beaux-arts, Musée de l’Elysée, our Musée de design et d’Arts Appliqués as well the foundations Toms Pauli and Félix Vallotton will enter into an ongoing conversation and thereby create a new cultural district of 25 000 m². While the institutions will keep their identities, history, collections and unique ways of talking about contemporary art, design and photography; the district as a whole will also develop its unique character and continue to live even after the museums’ opening hours. It’s culture near mobility.

Why was the train station chosen as a location?
The district is being built on a former industrial site in which locomotives use to be cleaned and repaired. Luckily the railroad company decided to preserve their locomotives elsewhere. It was like a Christmas present: nobody could believe that 25 000 m² in the city centre became available. In French you would say that this was a clear ‘alignement des planètes’.

Furthermore, Lausanne train station is subject to a major ten-year development programme. By 2028-30 it will become one of Switzerland’s transportation hubs and will host approximately 200 000 passengers per day. When switching trains or getting off in Lausanne they will inevitably pass by the entrance of PLATEFORME 10. If our programme is good enough, we may be able to convince these commuters to visit us and take the next train. This means that we would win 2000 visitors per day. In general I think it’s splendid to be located next to a very active part of the town. In fact, I prefer this as opposed to having the museums being built in a beautiful park or next to the lake, which was the original project.

Which impact will the new cultural district have on the city, region, and country?
It will have a major impact. A project like this will first of all affect the citizens of Lausanne. They will have a new open space to meet their friends and families, feel at home in the city and discover something new through the exhibitions. The ‘Museumsquartier’ in Vienna served as one of our models. Dieter Bogner, its founder, shared countless success factors with us. But they also experienced difficulties. How do you for example move the people from the open space into the museum? It is not that easy but we are testing different approaches.

As the train station is being developed into a regional hub, we of course hope that PLATEFORME 10 will contribute its share to shaping a positive image of the whole region in the eyes of our visitors. As far as I know, there is currently no comparable cultural development project on its way - whether in Switzerland or in Europe. We are talking about a budget of 100 million Swiss Francs. Our impact depends on how the three institutions, the city and all the other actors will collaborate. But I am convinced that we have all the necessary ingredients to jointly shape the character of this new district.

When can it be visited?
The Musée cantonal des Beaux-arts will open in October 2019. Musée de l’Elysée and mudac will follow in 2021. So from that point on, PLATEFORME 10 will truly become alive. In terms of audience, we are planning to host 200 000 visitors per year. Whether we reach this target heavily depends on our programme: Each institution will likely present one major annual exhibition. Every second or third year we will jointly develop a show, presenting photography, design and fine arts in one theme. This approach will definitely be applied for the first exhibition in 2021. I hope to see you there!

Video: Scott McNamara / Fabio Kobel

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