Monograph on Le Cèdre, a jewel of Swiss architecture

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The entrance hall of Le Cedre. 2021, Claudio MerliniThe entrance hall of Le Cedre. 2021, Claudio Merlini
The headquarters of Vaudoise Insurance in Lausanne, designed by Swiss architect Jean Tschumi, is the subject of a detailed monument study to guide restoration work. The book’s vernissage will take place on March 16 at 6 p.m. at the Musée cantonal de design et d’arts appliqués contemporains (MUDAC) in Lausanne.

Architects Giulia Marino and Franz Graf are publishing the first comprehensive monograph on the building Le Cèdre, inaugurated in Lausanne in 1956 and designed by Swiss architect Jean Tschumi as the headquarters of Mutuelle Vaudoise Accidents. The researchers, who are with the Faculty of Natural, Architectural and Built Environment (ENAC), reviewed the history of the building at the request of the Canton of Vaud and the insurer itself to help contractors make the right decisions in future restoration work.

The site, Campagne du Cèdre, would have housed the Ecole polytechnique de l’Université de Lausanne (EPUL), the precursor of EPFL. Finally, part of the site is dedicated to the new Mutuelle Vaudoise Accidents building, whose business boomed after the war. These offices, inspired by corporate headquarters in major American cities, are conceived by Jean Tschumi as a "total work of art." Archival material shows that Tschumi, for example, incorporated artwork with great attention to detail and innovations based on the latest scientific findings of the time.

We are at the beginning of "corporate identity", which states that the headquarters of a company represents its values.

Start of the ’corporate identity’ (corporate identity )

With a cafeteria and playroom, Le Cèdre is also introducing the "English week," which allows staff to eat on site during the week and not work on Saturdays. This model will be more widely adopted in Switzerland. The introduction of open-plan offices, imported from the USA, is also a first in the region. "We are at the beginning of ’corporate identity,’ which says that a company’s headquarters represents its values," emphasizes Giulia Marino, a member of the Laboratory for Techniques and Protection of Modern Architecture (TSAM). "Even today, Vaudoise Insurance has a very sustainable policy of acquiring local artworks and exhibiting some of them in this building."

The international response to the Cèdre at its inauguration in June 1956 made it a model for Swiss and European administrative architecture. This success enabled Jean Tschumi to later build Nestlé’s headquarters in Vevey, a building that incorporated many of the elements developed in this first masterpiece.

Proven method

The monograph, designed like a beautiful large-format book, is based on an in-depth study of the archives of Le Cèdre and its successive renovations, interviews and on-site analysis, including stratigraphic studies of the original colors of the walls. Giulia Marino and Franz Graf recently traced with the same precision the history of two iconic buildings of modern architecture: the Atelier-Appartement by Le Corbusier and the Buvette d’Evian by Maurice Novarina and Jean Prouve. They also published a study of the Cité des Avanchets and another of the Cité du Lignon, both in the canton of Geneva. For Le Lignon, the architects received the ’Docomomo Rehabilitation Award’ in 2021, which recognizes outstanding restorations of modern architecture worldwide.

  • Vernissage on March 16, 2023 at 6 pm at the Musée cantonal de design et d’arts appliqués contemporains (MUDAC), Lausanne.

Franz Graf, Giulia Marino, Le Cèdre. Jean Tschumi 1951-1956, Infolio, 2022.