Les Grottes

Les Grottes MapLes Grottes is an area of Geneva directly above the train station (Gare Cornavin) of interesting architecture known as Les Schtroumpes, or The Smurfs, as well as another set of buildings called The Caves (after a river that used to flow through here).  It’s also a bohemian neighborhood with tagged buildings, run-down areas, impromptu sculpture, which is a vast change from Geneva’s button-down, cleaned up general atmosphere.

GenevaSchtroumpes_1The Swiss architects — Christian Hunziger, Robert Frei and Georges Berthoud, built these between 1982 and 1984; the four Schtroumpf buildings contain 170 city-subsidized apartments for rent.  (I found most of the information in English from the Newly Swissed website.)GenevaSchtroumpes_2They said they were inspired by Gaudi, of Barcelona, with his use of natural forms and aversion to the traditional right angles.GenevaSchtroumpes_3 GenevaSchtroumpes_4 GenevaSchtroumpes_5 GenevaSchtroumpes_6But that’s not all Les Grottes is.  It has several small quirky shops, bike repair places (the “parking garage” for bicyclists using the trains is within Les Grottes, picture below), and eating places.  I enjoyed walking through it on one of the not-rainy days.

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At one point, they were going to raze this area and put in skyscrapers, but the residents protested and blocked it.  Admittedly, it is kind of jarring to see Heidi’s cottage all tagged up, but the difference between what we usually see as tagged buildings (concrete housing projects) and this more humble, traditional building, make us think a bit.  I got a hugely negative reaction to this photo when I posted it up on Instagram, but given the neighborhood, I thought it kind of amusing.GenevaLes Grottes1 GenevaLes Grottes2 GenevaLes Grottes2a GenevaLes Grottes2b GenevaLes Grottes2c

Is this the Old Folks Home?  It’s pretty cool-looking, if it is.GenevaLes Grottes3 GenevaLes Grottes4

Ceiling of entryway into parking garage.GenevaLes Grottes5 GenevaLes Grottes6

In this neigborhood, there is the Smurf Buildings, the Caves, tagged and decorated traditional buildings and then this elegant doorway.GenevaLes Grottes7 GenevaLes Grottes8 GenevaLes Grottes9 GenevaLes Grottes10

Random Art atop a community center (? it’s hard to tell what things are when everything’s in a language you don’t understand or read).GenevaLes Grottes11Usually we are at breakneck speed, checking off things in our guidebooks to see, racing around neighborhoods.  But when you are in a place like Geneva — known as a two-sight town — you have to drill down through the usual to find the unique.  This qualifies, I think.

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