Swiss San Francisco

When we were out on Neuchâtel Fun Day, we made a stop in La Chaux des Fonds as S was hosting two architecture students for the week, just prior to them returning from their studies abroad.   She wanted to show them another side of Switzerland and figured they’d like to see a few of Le Corbusier’s early designs.  Le Corbusier is a famous Swiss architect (I didn’t know either).    He happened to grow up in this city which is also a UNESCO world heritage city, for mechanical watch-making.

We visited both houses and drove around the city.

What was far more interesting to me in this Swiss city was the grid system.  S had noted that in addition to Le Corbusier and watch-making, that it was notorious for its checkerboard grid plan.

This is very uncommon in Switzerland.  Usually the roads cling to the shape of mountains, creating lots of curvy roads.  This makes it hard to drive in Swiss cities, with crazy intersections.  Especially when you add trams.  And bikes.  At angles.  Not that I know (since I can’t drive a stick), I just observe Gabe and my friends struggle with the traffic pattern.   If you haven’t read A’s Driving Handbook, you should.

Typical Swiss cities, like Neuchâtel, which we saw earlier in the day have more windy roads

However, La Chaux de Fonds is perfectly gridded and linear.  And, it is not flat all all.

Look at how the streets resemble San Francisco*!   As I mentioned, you don’t get these views in other Swiss cities because of the curve factor.

The hills

The next week, I told my physio that we went to La Chaux des Fonds with a group of friends.  He understood better when I mentioned the architecture thing.  He chuckled when I said I now called it “Swiss San Francisco”.

*In no way did the city & people resemble San Francisco except for the streets.   No bohemian vibe.  No bowls of chowder.     No adorable noisy seals.   And probably no nightlife.   Although I bet La Chaux des Fonds might rival Ghiradelli on chocolate….


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