It all began when Swiss town of St Gallen, Switzerland one considered rather conservative and serious, in cooperation with the Schweizer Verbandes der Raiffeisenbaken (SVRB) announced a competition to create a public living space room. There were six entries, only five of which were taken seriously. The sixth one, due to the costs, expected technological problems and its complete uncompromising attitude seemed impossible to be carried out. Yet, it won. The winning entry was designed by Carlos Martinez in collaboration with Pipilotti Rist.
Once a boring, undefined space was defined anew – the main element of the newly designed City Lounge, set out by Raiffeisen bank’s buildings was the brightly red “carpet”, made out of synthetic, granulated gum (tartan), which is surprisingly soft. The carpet flows all around the buildings, recreating places to relax, to converse, to park – if you look close enough you will find spaces such a “foyer”, “cloak room”, business room etc. The living room attracts attention of the visitors, breaking the previous unanimous character of the banking district. As an outcome – a friendly are which attracts both the citizens and the tourists – was created. And all theat despite initial apprehension of artistic and architect circles – everyone was surprised that such a bold project would be carried out.
One of the creators, Rist, wanted to introduce the idea of “prolonging” private space onto the public space – ergonomic shapes of the city furniture and the soft surface encourage you to feel “at home”, lazily stretching out of sofas. Children are attracted by fountains, local businessman enjoy this place for their lunches. The idea was also to push the cars out of the space- although there are specially designed parking places, any car entering the area will probably feel like a total stranger. Other features of the design are huge lamps hung on steel lines across the lounge – they emit light of different colour and power and are suppose to resemble multicoloured clouds over a city. Various light was designed for different times of the day and year. There is little greenery in the are, yet it was carefully selected – there are four Gingko trees, chosen for their beautiful, pure colour of leaves – uniform green in the summer which in the autumn in a instant changes into yellow. All the details of the space, including wastebins, ashtrees, kerbstones, drain system and identification system – for parking – were similarly designed in detail.
All in all, the intention was for the people to won the space, and to give it new life. And I think with this innovative decision the city managed to achieve its goal – from what I’ve read there are animations and cultural events scheduled in the area at night, and the cafes and lounge area attracting people throught the whole day.