It’s official. Smoking is good for your wealth. Or at least it was if you happened to be a tobacco plantation owner a century ago. With money to burn from his Sumatra based enterprise, in the 1880s Carl Fürchtegott Grob hired architects Alfred Chiodera and Theophile Chudy to design him a house in the hilly Riesbach district of Zürich. Actually this being Zürich, everywhere is pretty much hilly. It’s on Zollikerstrasse which is like Kensington Palace Gardens – with gardens. Über villas lurk in sylvan settings, each richer with a richer patron than the last.
Villa Patumbah is one of the most flamboyant. It’s a typical eclecticism of baroque, gothic, Italian Renaissance and just a little Swiss chalet (all that wood!). Two years before he died, Herr Grob got the landscape architect Evariste Mertens to give the house a setting worthy of its opulence. Its inspiration was English formal gardens. “Patumbah” is Malay for “longed for land”. Carl got his longed for land – and house – and more recently, the Swiss Heritage Society has ensured the public can share in his dream. Not such a drag.