Build­ing for the world

Swiss ar­chi­tec­ture has been a pop­u­lar ex­port since the Baroque era. Four in­gre­di­ents for its suc­cess.

Bulletin - - Contents - Text Köbi Gan­ten­bein

Swiss ar­chi­tec­ture has been a pop­u­lar ex­port since the Baroque era.

The small vil­lage of Fläsch is tucked in be­tween moun­tains and vine­yards in the can­ton of Graubün­den. Again and again, I have shown vis­i­tors what our vil­lage has to of­fer when it comes to “Baukul­tur,” the com­bi­na­tion of ar­chi­tec­ture, en­gi­neer­ing, plan­ning, de­sign and en­vi­ron­ment. In­ter­est in the vil­lage has risen sharply since 2010, when Fläsch re­ceived the Swiss Her­itage So­ci­ety’s Wakker Prize for out­stand­ing lo­cal plan­ning, es­sen­tially the Swiss Os­car for Baukul­tur. Word has got­ten out that Fläsch is well worth a visit. In ad­di­tion to cu­ri­ous vis­i­tors from the Swiss low­lands, I have led tours of the vil­lage for a num­ber of groups from abroad, whether from Italy, Ger­many and Aus­tria, or even China and Ja­pan. Oc­ca­sion­ally, cheer­ful groups come to visit on ed­u­ca­tional trips, mostly ar­chi­tects and plan­ners.

And this is the first in­gre­di­ent in why Swiss ar­chi­tec­ture has gained renown around the world: We build well, and we like to talk about it. Peo­ple from other coun­tries come to Switzer­land to learn from us, whether as part of their ini­tial train­ing or in con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion cour­ses of­fered at the Swiss Fed­eral In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in Zurich and Lau­sanne or at the Ac­cademia di Ar­chitet­tura in Men­dri­sio. These in­sti­tu­tions en­joy a good rep­u­ta­tion around the world, and they are en­trusted with the holy grail that is Swiss ar­chi­tec­ture – one-third of those drink­ing from this ves­sel come from other coun­tries around the world, and they re­turn home in­spired by Swiss ideas.

Un­like the large, ur­ban cre­ations in cities like Ber­lin, Lon­don and Paris – which we are told we should em­u­late more – we have a lot to of­fer on a smaller scale. Since the days of Ti­cino na­tive Francesco Bor­ro­mini, a 17th cen­tury ar­chi­tect who built a dozen churches in Rome, this abil­ity has taken form in struc­tures built in other coun­tries. And it con­tin­ues to this day with firms like Mario Botta, Her­zog & de Meu­ron and Gigon/guyer.

The sec­ond in­gre­di­ent for the suc­cess of Swiss ar­chi­tects abroad is their knack for de­sign – their abil­ity to give a build­ing both shape and per­son­al­ity. Halden­stein-based ar­chi­tect Peter Zumthor un­der­stands this as­pect mas­ter­fully. We can ex­pe­ri­ence this in his Kolumba Mu­seum in Cologne, which houses the trea­sures of the Catholic Church. Zumthor built the mu­seum on the ru­ins of a church that was bombed dur­ing World War II, si­mul­ta­ne­ously re­flect­ing the his­tory of the lo­ca­tion while also pro­vid­ing a sym­bol for the faith­ful with its sweep­ing dig­nity. Above all, it is a mu­seum where the high­est level of art can


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