Located in the center of St. Gallen’s financial hub of Bleicheli, in Switzerland, is an outdoor space that looks more like the interior of a comfortable living room. The entire outdoor space is carpeted in red that appears to have swept in like the tide, spilling between the buildings and round the corner, covering everything in its path. The red carpet flows over the sidewalk and into the fountain, over seating elements, and even a parked Porsche. This area is called Stadtlounge. “Stadt” means “public” in German, so Stadtlounge simply means: a public lounge.
Back in the 19th Century, when St. Gallen was famous for its embroidery production, the Bleicheli quarter fell just outside the city's medieval old town and was home to many textile factories. Today, it’s the financial district of St. Gallen with modern banks and insurance buildings.
A few years ago, the city of St. Gallen with assistance of a Swiss bank, the Schweizer Verbandes der Raiffeisenbanken (SVRB), announced a design competition in an effort to make the Bleicheli more lively and attractive to pedestrians. The idea was to create a "public living room" amid the mini-skyscrapers of the financial district. The winning design for "Stadtlounge" was proposed by artist Pipilotti Rist and the Carlos Martinez architectural firm. Together they transformed this drab section of the city into a massive red landscape with curvaceous benches and water features that call out to passersby, encouraging them to sit and linger.
The Stadtlounge is divided into various areas: the café - a series of blobby chairs with low-level tables ideal for a picnics; the relax lounge – an area of rounded sofas set back from the main thoroughfare; and the business lounge, with long benches and full-length tables that can easily host an outdoor meeting of 20. At night, a series of giant, lamps that look like the moon glow orange, red, blue and violet.
Since its opening in 2005, the Stadtlounge stays abuzz with activity all throughout the day and well after sunset.
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