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In 1841 Lausanne banker Charles-Juste Bugnion and his wife Jeanne Marie Chatelanat bought the land of the Hermitage, on a hill overlooking the city. Here, in the years 1851-1853, they built a residence notable for openness to its surroundings – a new idea in architecture at that time. The very large windows let in a great deal of light and enable visitors to feel they are in communication with the natural world outside. Stone combines harmoniously with cast iron in the elegant, south-facing balconies and wide loggias on either side of the building, both of which reflect the importance placed on views in the design of this residence, which was intended to make the most of the panorama.
In 1976 the Bugnion family bequeathed the house and part of the grounds to the City of Lausanne. At the same time a private foundation was set up to open this fine 19th century residence to the public and to develop a major museum of visual art.