Simon George immerses himself in Lausanne’s old world charm and marvels at the transformational power of modular technology at the STCC.
Genteel, graceful and elegant, Lausanne exudes old world charm in a serene setting. Five-star establishments like the Royal Savoy, the Lausanne Palace and the grande dame Hotel du Lac, the belle epoque Beau Rivage, vie with each other on the grandeur scale, while Lake Geneva (Lac Leman) and the Alps offer a picture postcard backdrop.
Lausanne has a rich history. The treaty concluding World War I, the Treaty of Lausanne, was signed here in 1923, and it was the haunt of royalty and stars such as Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn and Charlie Chaplin. However, it would be a mistake to focus on the city’s illustrious past at the expense of the present.
Today Lausanne is modern, vibrant and forward focused. As a MICE destination, it offers no shortage and variety of exciting venues, from a state-of-the-art convention centre that is Switzerland’s equivalent of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was last year voted the best convention centre in Switzerland, to luxurious hotels, the Olympic museum (Lausanne is the official headquarters of the International Olympic Committee); and to vineyards in the Lavaux region, which can be used for bespoke events.
And business is on the up. According to Lausanne’s Tourism & Convention Bureau, 2016 saw a 24% year-on-year increase in meetings and events held in the city’s three key conference-hotels and congress centres, as well as a 10% rise in the number of delegates.
The SwissTech Convention Center (STCC), which comprises laboratories, start-ups and multinationals like Cisco, Intel and Logitech, is a hotbed of research, scientific innovation, technological progress and sustainable development. Part of the prestigious EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne), which has some 10,000 students from all over the world, the centre has three levels and is situated in the middle of the university campus.
Opened in April 2014 in a public-
private partnership funded by Credit Suisse, STCC offers 4,000sqm of exhibition space, three auditoriums,15 breakout rooms, and can be configured into 15 breakout rooms, with capacities ranging from 40 to 270. The STCC hosts 150 events a year and can accommodate up to 3,000 people.
The façade of STCC’s cutting-edge design building features coloured solar panel tubes. Inside, the building is awash with natural light, and boasts a system of sliding walls and Gala Venue Spiralift technology that can be merged together.
Modularity is the watchword at STCC – through a process of technological wizardry that is fully automated, it allows rooms and spaces to be transformed in minutes: walls can slide, floors can be levelled, seating reconfigured, and foyers can be extended to create a meeting space tailor-made to the client’s wishes.
The STCC is targeting renewable energy. It pumps water from Lake Geneva, which is used for heating, cooling and drinking, before being recycled; it taps geothermal energy, and as part of this sustainable ambition, it is installing photovoltaic solar panels on its roof next year.
Rolex Learning Centre
Elsewhere on EPFL’s campus, the Rolex Learning Centre, with its striking low-rise, wave-like design that makes use of tensioned steel, offers an auditorium that can seat 600 and a 70sqm stage for meetings. Built at a cost of CHF110m (US$113.7m), 50% private funded and inaugurated in May 2010, the centre’s library contains 500,000 books.
Citius, Altius, Fortius
Re-opened in 2014 after extensive refurbishment and overlooking Lake Geneva, the Olympic Museum, which charts the history of the Olympic Games, offers a wide variety of exhibition areas and meeting spaces that can be hired out exclusively, including for private events. Spaces include the auditorium, which seats 175, and the TOM Café and the Coubertin Club, which can be used for cocktail receptions and dining. There is also the Art Lounge, suitable for coffee breaks, and the gallery and terrace with panoramic views over the waters of Lake Geneva, which are perfect for receptions.
The venue’s gold medal, full-day seminar package (from 8am until 6pm), which includes refreshments and entrance to the museum, costs CHF105 per person, a half-day CHF85. The whole venue can be hired out in the evening (including exclusive access to the Olympic museum) for gala dinners where delegates are given the full red carpet treatment (including Olympic torches) as they arrive.
Hotels du Lac
Situated in the heart of the city and recently renovated to the tune of US$100m, the art nouveau Royal Savoy hotel, part of the Bürgenstock group, offers 12 rooms for meetings, all of which offer integrated technology and natural light. The hotel can accommodate up to 300 people for dinner – it also has a rooftop restaurant, the only one of its kind in the city – and 500 for cocktails.
Its five-star counterpart, the belle epoque Lausanne Palace & Spa, also offers a range of meeting rooms and spaces, the largest of which is capable of accommodating 250 people. The hotel has its own wine cellar for tasting events.
The future looks bright
Strategically located in the heart of Europe, 40 minutes from Geneva airport (with a direct rail link) and home to a growing number of international sport and industry associations, Lausanne comes with considerable attractions for both business and leisure, as the increase in both kinds of visitor to the city (6% up y-o-y in 2016) bears out. The number of visitors from outside Switzerland also continues to show significant growth, up 7% y-o-y in total (France up 6%, Germany 5%, USA 11%, Italy 2% and the UK 4%). The number of people visiting Lausanne for meetings rose 22% y-o-y in 2016, according to the International Congress and Convention Association.
Olivier Mathieu, congress and meetings manager at Lausanne’s Tourism & Convention Bureau, is optimistic: “As Lausanne and Switzerland experience positive economic growth, so our appeal to international businesses and associations as an excellent central base to bring conference delegates from all over the world, is growing. French-speaking Switzerland is now in the top 10 most prosperous European regions.”