Impressed by the Vallon de l'Ermitage as a particularly exceptional setting, in 1952 Friedrich Dürrenmatt decided to buy his first house in Neuchâtel at that location. His new home proved to be a haven of peace and quiet; it was near to both the town and German-speaking Switzerland and, nestled in the greenery, it nonetheless offered an incomparable view of the lake and the Alps. He would remain there until his death in 1990. He built a second building on the ground just above the house, using it first mainly as an office, but later taking up residence there. This building remains private property.
Subsequently, the original house became the departure point for the future Centre Dürrenmatt: in the words of the architect Mario Botta, "[...] in my opinion, it belongs to the exhibition". Thus the restoration/expansion/conversion project that came to completion in 2000 brought a "Centre Dürrenmatt" into existence within the idyllic context where the writer-painter had lived out his life.
As such, the Centre is thoroughly imbued with history, and closely linked to Dürrenmatt's biography. When they hang their coats up in the cloakroom, visitors can imagine the family gathered at the table; upon entering the cafeteria, his former workroom, they can picture him creating his plays and paintings.
Adjoining the cafeteria, the panoramic terrace, since enlarged by Botta, continues to overhang the Lake of Neuchâtel and to offer a splendid vista that stretches all the way to the Alps.
Dürrenmatt comments on the view in his Vallon de l'Ermitage text (1980): "Observing the [...] Alps and their foothills through my telescope, I espy the church tower of Guggisberg; my family comes from this village, and I am still a citizen of this commune [...]".
The terrace also offers visitors a vantage point from which to see the original house as it has now been restored, the building above and the garden in tiers that Dürrenmatt dug into the slope over the years.