Luzern holds a special place in Russian culture. The city has inspired representatives of Russian creative intellectuals; Luzern and its picturesque surroundings were captured in many memoirs and literary works.
Today there is the heartbeat of Russian lifestyle on the Gütsch hill. Visible from many parts of the city, including the infamous Kapellbrücke bridge, the Château Gütsch Hotel has been the city’s calling card for longtime. Large-scale installation the «Heart», a key object of a new LA Collection Air Art Park, gave Luzern another romantic image.
Сhâteau Gütsch is rightfully considered as one of the most interesting hotels of Switzerland, owing it to its known guests among other aspects. Queen Victoria stayed here, Thomas Mann visited it during long stays in Luzern, baroness Beatrice de Rothschild and an outstanding conductor Arturo Toscanini stopped at the hotel. There were many stars of XX century among the hotel guests. Popular singers Tom Jones, Caterina Valente and Shirley Bassey stayed in Сhâteau Gütsch. The hotel restaurant welcomed Henry Moore, Madeline Albright, Henry Kissinger, eminent conductors, Luzern music festival guests Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Chailly and Herbert von Karajan, famous German radio host Thomas Gottschalk, many Swiss politicians and stars of show business.
The history of Château Gütsch Hotel is unique in its own way. The Gütsch hill is an important witness of centuries-long life of the city: A fire used to be kept alight there in times of war. In 1590, the “Unoth” tower was built at the end point of the third city wall. Initially the turret served as a watchtower, but in XIX century it became an observation station. In 1859, Burkhard Pfyffer purchased land on the Gütsch hill, and in the same year the city council granted him the right to open an inn there. Entrepreneur Ignaz Businger purchased the already operating inn in 1879 and obtained broader authority to create a hotel. Eduard Stampfli from Montreux was listed as the first architect who was designing the hotel.
Château Gütsch was partly destroyed in fire in 1888. During reconstruction the hotel obtained its current silhouette: distinctive towers and bay windows. The rooms that accommodate the restaurant and chambers on a higher floor were built in 1901. Construction works were managed by Swiss architect Emil Vogt, who remained in the history of architecture as an author of many pompous Belle époque hotels. Subsequently, the architects, who worked on building’s reconstruction at different times, consulted his ideas. The hotel remained closed during the First World War (1914-1918). During the Second World War (1939–1945), the building was forcedly handed over to military and at various times was used to house refugees, returning emigrants and internees.
In 1992, the hotel interior was fully reinvented. Ten years later in 2012, an American designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard, a connoisseur of modern splendour, brought back hotel’s historical authenticity, at the same time satisfying all standards for comfort accepted among current hoteliers.
In 2014, businessman Alexander Lebedev bought Сhâteau Gütsch. After extensive renovation the hotel reopened its doors in spring of 2014. Proportions of public areas were maintained during the last reconstruction. Particular attention was paid to historical elements of the décor: ceiling stucco work, wood carving, fine parquet flooring and hand-painted wood panelling, all were restored.
Also, thanks to the effort made by the current owner, the cable car Gütschbahn built in 1884 was modernised and brought back to operation. Today, Luzern citizens, tourists, and hotel guests have a great pleasure to use it.
In 2018, a modern art park LA Collection’Air opens on the territory of Сhâteau Gütsch. At the core of the exposition is the collection acquired by entrepreneur and philanthropist Alexander Lebedev and his wife Elena Perminova. A list of authors includes Dmitry Zhukov, Dmitry Kawarga, Nikolay Polissky, Andrey Lublinsky, Anna Zholud, Margo Trushina, Vasily Klyukin and other Russian artists. Specific synergy of modern art and nature, spectacular panoramic city view and diversity of art objects exhibited in the park allow each visitor to immerse into an interesting aesthetic experience. The exposition awakens imagination, prepares for emotional experience of artistic messages and for open interpretations of meanings. Concept of the park embraces three themes: “Figures and characters”, “Bestiary”, and “Signs and symbols”. Art enthusiasts will appreciate unique concepts and brave malleable ideas brought by the authors, and all visitors will have unforgettable experience. “Wings” by Dmitry Zhukov is an ideal object for “soaring” self-portraits. The art object “Heart” by Vasily Klyukin will give you an chance to feel your heart beating together with that of your loved one. Sculptures by Nikolay Polissky and Dmitry Kawarga will help to find a new view on the nature. Deliberately romantic concept of LA Collection’Air suggests open dialogue and development: the park will be changing, also due to creative contribution of Swiss sculptors. “I would like for LA Collection’Air art park to turn into an important cultural point of Switzerland, — says the owner of the hotel, businessman Alexander Lebedev. — To “fit” into the local society, to become more than a landmark for tourists. The main goal is creative transformation of space. It is important that in the future the park lives its own intense life. We want people interested in modern art to be able to meet and share their experiences, create new projects, and we, in our turn, are ready to encourage and support such initiatives”. The section “Bestiary” will definitely be growing, because ethic mission of art-animalism is important to Alexander Lebedev. “Today we finance major programmes for flora and fauna protection in Africa. Our edition of The Independent participates in Space for Giants project, which aim is to save African elephants, to protect their natural habitats. I think that the modern art-animalism, work of sculptors, who create big spectacular animals, support our goals. There are art bestiary in parks, and live animals in wild nature”.
The original park exposition, synergy of local nature and modern art will allow the park to strengthen cultural ties between Russia and Switzerland. The authors of the project hope that LA Collection’Air will become a place of creative interaction for artists from different countries, a new tourist landmark of Switzerland, and that it will turn into a land of true feelings and aesthetic delight.