La Chaux-de-Fonds / Le Locle
Marikit Taylor, historian specializing in the conservation and promotion of architectural heritage:
What is your role here at this World Heritage Site?
I am a historian specialising in the conservation and promotion of architectural heritage - particularly that of La Chaux-de-Fonds. I also do a lot of guided tours.
What's your relationship with this site?
I came to La Chaux-de-Fonds to work in the field of history and heritage. I got to know the town in all its nooks and crannies, and to love the thousand and one little things that make it beautiful, but that you don't necessarily see at first glance. Most of my research and publications are about the Watchmaking Metropolis. I'm even doing my doctorate on it!
What's your favorite place? Do you have any special advice?
I particularly like the Industry district, which is off the beaten track. The small forge located rue des Terreaux 10A bears witness to life in another time. My advice is to take the time to stroll down the straight streets and immerse yourself in the spirit of the 19th century. Its traces are everywhere - be it in the endless number of old, decorated wrought-iron gates, the trompe l'oeil painted stairwells full of floral and landscape motifs, or even the roofs, on which old snow fences remind us that this is a city in the mountains. A visit to the Spillmann apartment is fascinating: it gives you an insight into the daily life of the workers in the old watch factories and at the same time you can discover the local Art Nouveau, the so-called "Style sapin". The apartment can be visited by following an "Art Nouveau" guided tour offered by Tourisme Neuchâtelois. Free thematic brochures are also available at the Tourist Office or online - if you want to discover the secrets of the city on your own.
When is the best time to visit the site and why?
Autumn, when you can enjoy the Indian summer. But for me, the most magical time is winter, when everything is covered in white and the smoke swirls over the chimneys. It's beautiful.
What activities would you particularly recommend?
I think the city is best discovered in the presence of a guide, as it can be a bit disconcerting at first. My favourite visit is the one of Le Corbusier's first villas. Charles-Edouard Jeanneret became the greatest architect of the 20th century, but we often forget that his first works are here. I also recommend the guided tours "à l'horaire", which are cheap and for which there is no need to register in advance. This is the best way to discover the Spillmann apartment, for example. The view from the Espacité belvedere and watching the film at the Espace de l'urbanisme horloger are also a must.
November 2017 (translated from French)