Apparently, those cute little blue cartoon characters do not just live in mushrooms.
For concrete proof, you need only stroll around the surreal architecture of what everyone calls the “Schtroumpf” buildings in Geneva.
The word "Schtroumpf," believe it or not, is a French made-up word first uttered by the Smurfs’ Belgian creator, Peyo, when he could not think of the French word for "salt," according to Wikipedia.
The word “Smurfs” is the Dutch translation of "Schtroumpf" - so a made-up word from a made-up word!
Designed by Swiss architects Christian Hunziger, Robert Frei and Georges Berthoud, and built between 1982 and 1984, the four Schtroumpf buildings contain 170 city-subsidized apartments for rent.
The rent is calculated according to a resident's income. But do not turn blue holding your breath to get in. Each year, the city gets some 4000 requests for rent-adjusted social housing - but can fill only about 200.
The whimsical design inside and out shows the architects’ affection for Catalan architect Antoni Gaudì.
Besides apartments, the buildings’ ground floor also houses a few small businesses, including a pole dance studio, doctors’ offices, a small theater and a café.
The Smurf Buildings are off Rue Louis-Favre in an interesting neighborhood, Les Grottes, just a block northeast of Geneva’s main train station, Cornavin. On Thursdays, there is a very funky local market at La Place des Grottes.
But the Schtroumpf Buildings are a world unto themselves.
To get a peak inside a Smurf apartment, watch this video from TV Suisse Romande:
(Story and photos by Bill Harby.)
Head here for more stunning architecture along Lake Geneva.