Orient Express, luxury travel from London to Venice. ©Wikipedia

I saw a restored wagon-lit (train carriage with sleeping accommodation) in Vienna’s Science and Technology Museum. From the inside, it can be regarded as a noble way of travelling, because the decoration is luxurious, the compartments are spacious, and there are bathroom facilities for private use. I began to imagine how interesting long-distance train travel was.

In addition to the part-time work during the summer vacation in college, my friends and I love to travel by train. In order to save travel expenses, we often take night trains to distant cities, because we can cover the distance while we sleep. We do not waste time and also save hotel costs – the best of both worlds.

I remember my first night train ride from Vienna to Venice. Our bed was 90 degrees from the direction of the train. Before we went to sleep, the train was travelling from right to left. But it felt like the car was being pushed back and forth during our sleep, and when we got up in the morning, the train was going from left to right! We thought it was really funny, like magic. We wondered if we could arrive in Venice like this. It’s a novelty to take a sleeping carriage on a train, but the penalty is a bad night’s sleep.

The sleeping carriages on modern trains are divided into different compartments, ranging from three-person rooms to one-person rooms. The design of the sleeping carriage 25 years ago is much different from that of 2020, and many details have been improved. In the carriage, I love to observe how they meet the needs of all passengers in the smallest space. Small but complete!

In architectural design, means of transport will give architects different inspirations. Ships, planes, trains, and cars can all be the subject of architectural design. In the Weissenhof Estate in Stuttgart there is a multi-dwelling unit designed by Le Corbusier. Advocating mechanical aesthetics, he participated in the modern architecture exhibition Die Wohnung (apartment) in the summer of 1927. The exhibition host was Mies van der Rohe. This exhibition is not a talk on paper, but a real space that allows people to visit so-called modern buildings. All the exhibition’s architects had to abandon the previously exaggerated design methods and interpret modern buildings in a simple and affordable way. This has a great impact on future generations.

Le Corbusier was inspired by the sleeping cars on the railway. To him, home was like a machine for living (Wohnmaschine). When you get up in the morning, you can put the bed away in the storage area on the lower floor to make the space empty. Take out the bed at night. For me, the first time I saw this way of life was a Japanese room, because Japanese living space is very small, and the space must be used efficiently.

In addition, the colours he chose for indoors and outdoors were not monotonous – not only white, but also light grey, mouse grey, dark grey, English red, chocolate, cold and light blue, or even light green – it’s always surprising. The colours he chose became the Le Corbusier colour palette used in interior design.

Taken together, his modern design has five characteristics:

1.       The house on pillars: since the pillars are made of steel and concrete, the house can be lifted off the ground and float in the air. The garden can also extend below the house.

2.       Sky garden: building houses reduces the area of natural environment. Building a sky garden on the roof can partly make up for the space lost.

3.       Open space: because the columns support the weight of all ceilings, there is no need for traditional load-bearing walls. Therefore, there is greater flexibility in the layout.

4.       Long windows: horizontal strip-shaped windows are more efficient for lighting than vertical windows. Because the use of columns can increase the area of the window, the indoor lighting is improved.

5.       Free-style external wall design: the external wall is located outside the load-bearing columns, so the design of the external wall is not limited by the traditional need to bear weight, and can be designed with more freedom.

When the visitors walked indoors, they found that the corridors/aisles were very narrow, much like those in a train (70 cm wide). The stairwell is also very narrow – maybe the people at that time were very thin? This design caused many people to shake their heads. Not everyone can accept sleeping in a home like a wagon-lit every day. So, mixed reviews. However, this apartment survived not only the Nazi period, but also the Second World War and the post-war period. In the 1950s, the original apartment was to be demolished. Fortunately, those who were interested were fighting for it. In 1958, the entire residential estate’s buildings were brought under state protection.

In 2006, after undergoing three years of major renovations, Le Corbusier’s multi-dwelling unit became the Weissenhof Museum. In the summer of 2016, the building was included in the list of World Heritage sites by UNESCO. From a sample house on display to a world heritage site, a truly dramatic fate!

The only constant is human enthusiasm for trains and the need for sustainability. As long as air travel is not sustainable, the status of trains will not be replaced. I have always felt that train fans are cute when they take pictures of trains, and sometimes they show their embarrassment when we look at each other. Although I can’t sleep well on the train, I still quietly plan my next railway journey in the noble setting of a wagon-lit.

A machine for living (Wohnmaschine).






17 architects displayed examples of modern housing in a big city.

在建築設計中交通工具都會給建築師不同的靈感。輪船,飛機,火車,汽車都可以成為建築設計的主題。在斯圖加特的白屋聚落中有一個由勒·科比意(Le Corbusier)設計的雙棟房子。崇尚機械美學的他參加了1927年夏天時的現代建築展 Die Wohnung (公寓),展覽主持人是密斯·凡德羅 (Mies van der Rohe)。這展覽不是紙上談兵,而是真的空間可以讓人進入參觀所謂的現代建築。所有的建築師們要摒棄以前多餘誇張的設計方式,用簡單又可負擔的建築方式詮釋現代建築。這對後人影響甚大。

勒·科比意的靈感來自火車的火車廂。對他來說住家像是一個住的機器(Wohnmaschine)。 早上起來床可以收起來在下層的收納區,把空間空出來。晚上再把床拿出來使用。對我來說,第一次看到這種生活方式是在日本的和室,因為日本住家空間都很小,必須有效率的使用空間。








參觀者在室內走動時發現走道都很窄,很像在火車裡的走道一樣 (70公分寬)。樓梯間也很窄小,或許當時的人都很瘦?這樣的設計讓當時很多人都搖頭。並不是所有的人都能接受每天睡在像火車臥鋪箱的家。所以褒貶參半。然而這個公寓不但存活了納粹時期,二次世界大戰還有戰後期。在50年代原本公寓要被拆除,幸好有心人是為此奮鬥,在1958年整個社區成了國家保護的建築物。

2006年在經歷三年大整修,勒·科比意設計的雙棟公寓落成為白院博物館。2016年的夏天這建築被聯合國教科文組織納入世界遺產。從展示的樣品屋變成世界遺產,真戲劇化的命運! 唯一不變的是人類對火車的熱情及永續的需求。尤其當飛機旅行不是永續的,火車的地位不會被取代。我一向覺得火車迷拍照火車時很可愛,有時和他們眼神交錯時彼此還會靦腆而笑。雖然在火車上睡不好,但我心中還是默默的計劃下一次的高尚鐵道之旅。