The financier Felix von Schumacher commissioned plans from Aalto and his Swiss colleague Alfred Roth for a sixteen-storey apartment block and shopping centre on a large lakeshore site he owned just outside the old town of Lucerne. The two architects divided up the assignment: Aalto assumed sole responsibility for the high-rise, Roth for the shopping centre.
The high-rise block, completed in 1967, has a plan developed from that of the Neue Vahr house in Bremen. Again, the wedge-shaped apartments are grouped in a fan arrangement, with the tip facing the stairs and lifts on the service side and the wide main facade facing the lake and the Alps. All flats have large atrium balconies protected from outside view. Schönbühl differs from Neue Vahr, however, in that Aalto here demonstrated that prefabricated wall units can be used to build an entirely individual house liberated from the straitjacket of right angles. Another difference is that the dwellings vary greatly in size, ranging from von Schumacher’s nine-room penthouse apartment with roof garden and several six-room luxury flats to tiny studio flats.
On the ground floor is a large vestibule with direct access to the shopping centre, garage and surrounding park. There, also, are a restaurant seating 90 guests and various support rooms.