History of the Maison Mercier Lausanne
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The Maison Mercier is located at the heart of the Lausanne business district. Plans were drawn up in 1895, and the building was erected using the most innovative concepts of the time. The construction of reinforced concrete foundations, patented by a Belgian engineer, could support dimensions that were unheard of in Lausanne: 11 levels and some 6,000 sq.m of surface area, for which the Maison Mercier was often compared to the sky scrapers of Chicago!

Place Bel-Air at the turn of the century

The Maison Mercier under construction (1899)

The Maison Mercier under construction (1899)

The Maison Mercier under construction (1899)

(© Musée Historique de la ville de Lausanne)

Built between 1898 and 1900, the original building consisted of stores with mezzanines, and three floors of magnificent apartments fitted with marble fireplaces. With the meticulous design of its facades in Viollet-le-Duc Gothic Revival, the terrace and the roof angles topped with gables, the Maison Mercier was acclaimed one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.

The diversity of the renters and the activities in the Maison Mercier since the turn of the century attest to its owner's open-mindedness: the business name registry office, and several religious communities such as the synagogue, the Greek Orthodox and the Seventh-Day Adventists. The building also housed the French-language radio station Société Romande de Radiophonie (which has become Radio Suisse Romande), a fencing club and even a puppet theater! The professional activities practiced in the premises were just as varied: doctors, teachers, bankers, civil servants and tradesmen all worked under the same roof.

Over the last 60 years, the Maison Mercier has undergone regular restoration and modernization work in order to fully meet the demands of modern technology. Its stately size and original style have made it a true gem of Lausanne's architectural heritage.



Gazette de Lausanne, April 19, 1895

Facade of the Maison Mercier according to plans by Francis Isoz (© S.I.M.)


On Rue du Grand-Chêne 

The far-end of Rue du Grand Chêne on the Montbenon side is going to change completely. A building that is sure to be the largest and undoubtedly the most beautiful in Lausanne, will soon be erected on the site of the old Dufour house and its adjoining stables. Mr. Jean-Jacques Mercier is the man behind its construction, which is based on plans by Mr. Francis Isoz, architect of the Château d'Ouchy.

The new building will occupy not only the land of the two old houses to be demolished, but also the entire garden area to the west and the slope to the north, right up to the Gare du Flon. On that side, there will be no less than nine floors - almost the size of one of the famous Chicago sky scrapers! On the Rue du Grand-Chêne, however, even the tip of the cornice will not exceed the regulatory height of 18 meters. Large enough for spacious stores with mezzanines and for three floors of apartments, the Maison will be fully constructed out of cut stone - probably Arvel stone -, like the Château d'Ouchy. It will have great style and elegance. The meticulously designed facade on Rue du Grand-Chêne includes gables at both ends, and, at about a third of its length, a pointed bellturret. To the west, on the Montbenon side, and to the north, facing the Grand-Pont, the uniformity of the facades will be disrupted by architectural motifs that are suited to the general character of the building and that jut out from the walls and roofs.

This immense construction will not resemble to any extent an army barrack or any sort of rental property. It will have style, shape and relief.

Another original feature, in addition to street side stores, there will also be shops on the two other sides.

A terrace lined with a stone gallery will give access to the stores to the west and the north. Below the terrace, there will be another five floors of office space and various other premises.

A final point that touches the entire population of Lausanne, Mr. Mercier plans to build a large stairway in front of the building to the west, which will connect the Montbenon entrance to the funicular station. Negotiations to this effect have begun with the municipality. Let us hope that they arrive at an agreement.

It should be added that Mr. Mercier's building, which will be a significant embellishment to this part of the city, will be equipped with an elevator, a freight elevator, central steam heating and a small plant especially for the production of electric heating.


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