On warm autumnal days, when nature is turning from green to lemon and amber and scarlet, wandering through the leaf strewn gardens on the east and west banks of Zürich Lake is one of life’s finer pleasures. Open the gates and beyond one is guaranteed a villa to behold, or in the case of Museum Rietberg, three villas. On the opposite side of the lake from Museum Rietberg, high up on the east bank, is Villa Bleuler.
Grand American and Swiss houses tend to be called after their grand owners. Villa Bleuler is no exception, borrowing a barrel from the surname of its original client. Colonel Hermann Bleuler-Huber commissioned the local architect Alfred Bluntschli to design his house in the 1880s. A neo Renaissance palazzo was the result. It’s one of the loveliest of the city’s many villas. The brick changes from pale pink in the sunshine to orangey terracotta in the rain.
The building is beautifully complemented by gardens also designed by the architect and executed by Otto Froebel and Evariste Mertens. The interiors of dark marmalade look out across manicured lawns towards tree framed views of Zürich Lake. Like many of these houses, Zürich Council now owns Villa Bleuler and it is occupied by the Swiss Institute for Art Research. An oval glass lantern set into the front lawn is the only visibility of a contemporary architectural intervention underground.