In postwar Switzerland, architecture was expected to provide answers to questions of radical social change and unprecedented economic growth. Saurer Tower in Arbon, completed in 1960, added an early exclamation mark to the conversation. The 13-storey concrete complex on stilts brought high-rise housing to the canton of Thurgau and modular maisonettes to working-class families.
A postwar palace for working class families: throughout the 20th century, Arbon, a historic town on the southern shore of Lake Constance between Constance and Bregenz, was synonymous with Saurer, a world-leading manufacturer of trucks, buses, military vehicles and textile machinery. In the post-war period, the company was at its peak, employing over 5000 people. With a rapid influx of workers, Arbon was in desperate need of new and affordable housing.
Saurer’s managing director at the time, Albert Dubois, was the driving force behind the change. He commissioned his architect brother to design a striking structure to house 200 ‘Saurer families’. The building was to be a bold architectural statement of the company’s status as a socially responsible employer and forward-looking global player. Georges-Pierre was the perfect man for the job: he had worked in Le Corbusier’s studio between 1937 and 1940 and jumped at the chance.