Luzern, Löwenplatz – eine touristische Bilderfabrik (Löwenplatz in Lucerne – a factory for tourist photographs)

Research project 2011–2014, financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation
Dr Andreas Bürgi / Professor Jon Mathieu

Industrial quarters came into existence in Zurich, Basel and Winterthur in the 19th century. Their equivalent in Lucerne is the Tourismusmeile, literally the "tourism mile", in the Wey quarter with its Lion Monument (1821), Glacier Gardens (opened in 1873), Bourbaki Panorama (1889), Alpineum Museum (1901, previously Meyer’s Diorama from 1856 onwards), and Stauffer’s Museum of stuffed Swiss animals (1859–1888). Visitors also flocked to the district’s souvenir shops, photography studios, inns, and evening shows such as concerts and illuminations. This district provides Lucerne with a unique urban feature. No other towns or cities in Switzerland or in the Alpine region have a specific district like this, with such a densely packed selection of specially created tourist attractions. Construction and expansion of the Tourism Mile was only possible with modern financing models, the latest technology, established tourism infrastructures and media processes and content that appealed to the tastes of a broad public. The facilities allowed visitors to acquaint themselves with the natural and historical attractions on offer in Switzerland, and in the Alpine region in particular.

The origins, development and significance of this unique collection of tourist attractions have been researched and documented, especially the Lion Monument and the Bourbaki Panorama. The value of these features has been recognised thanks to research carried out over the last forty years into the cultural history of the 19th century and the significance of these popular media for the development of the mass culture of the 20th century, and thanks to the insight into the beauty and the unique artistic characteristics of these features. And the significance of comparable phenomena located somewhere between art, popular science and curiosity, such as the relief, or exhibition concepts related to natural history, is being ever more clearly recognised. However, the primary feature of the Tourism Mile was the production of an immense amount of tourist photographs, which made it appear to be a diverse and highly concentrated mixture of images of Switzerland. This feature has never been examined as an entity in its own right.

This image factory as a form of symbolic practice forms the basis of the project  "Luzern, Löwenplatz" (Lucerne, Löwenplatz). The project firstly aims to investigate its (urban) political, economic and tourist history aspects chronologically from the 1820s, when the inauguration of the Lion Monument, as it subsequently turned out, formed the basis of the Tourism Mile. The study ends with World War I. Secondly, the project sets out to analyse the series of images produced during that era, taking into account the tradition and development of their content, the technical and cultural conditions of their presentation, and their function and success in terms of tourism. Thirdly, the project aims to take an overall look at the ensemble of attractions in order to evaluate them and investigate their repercussions on Swiss self-conception.