Top contemporary Swiss architecture – Inspiring your new property project
TEXT: NANE STEINHOFF
Switzerland is often overlooked when it comes to world-famous architecture. However, as the birthplace of Le Corbusier, one of the world’s most famous architects, the country has brought forward an impressive armada of Pritzker Prize winners, and a new generation of innovative architects.
Switzerland as a whole is coined by various European architectural trends in a more modest way than other neighbouring countries. Largely untouched by large-scale wars in the past 200 years, many cultural treasures have been preserved such as the city of Berne where visitors can still see its original settlement structure. The unique regional characteristics of Swiss architecture can further be seen in the stone houses of Ticino, the houses in the Engadine, the Walser settlements, half-timbered houses in eastern Switzerland, houses in Appenzell, Bernese chalets and houses in the Jura mountains. Aside from history-buffs, contemporary architecture enthusiasts will also find their fair share of buildings to see, however. From the early 20th century, Switzerland has brought forward a various crowd of visionary architects who have become internationally renowned for their structures.
When the Bauhaus movement swept across Europe in the 1920s, it also arrived in Switzerland. Le Corbusier, also known as Charles Edouard Jeanneret, who lived from 1887 until 1965, was the main figure of this architectural notion in the country. In his architectural creations, he cleverly combined human existence with the industrial society. He wanted to call for a radical change in architecture. The Swiss, however, never appreciated Le Corbusier’s concepts as much as other countries did, so most of his buildings can actually be found abroad. Exceptions are the Villa Jeanneret-Perret and the Heidi-Weber House, amongst others. Today, Le Corbusier’s portrait can be seen on the 10-franc bank note, a tribute to one of the country’s biggest exports to date.
Herzog & de Meuron
Founded in 1978, Herzog & de Meuron are two architects with a long list of architectural achievements across the globe. They have worked on London’s Tate Modern, the ‘Birds’ Nest’ in Beijing, Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, the Prada Aoyama Epicenter in Tokyo and the Vitra Building in Weil am Rhein, Germany. The architectural office is known for its diverse building structures, and large-scale projects.
In Switzerland, they have worked on the New Hall for Basel’s Messe exhibition space, for example. The new extension now showcases three stacked ten-metre-high halls which create additional exhibition rooms, while the outside is characterized by textured aluminium that appears like the façade is woven.
Born in Basel, Peter Zumthor is known for creating calm, sensorial spaces that are characterized by craftsmanship, space, and cleverly combined materials. In 2009, the Pritzker Prize jury selected Zumthor as the 2009 Laureate and they explained: “His buildings have a commanding presence, yet they prove the power of judicious intervention, showing us again and again that modesty in approach and boldness in overall result are not mutually exclusive. His buildings masterfully assert their presence, engaging many of our senses, not just our sight but also our sense of touch, hearing, and smell.”
One of those examples sits in Austria’s Bregenz – the Kunsthaus Bregenz. Located on Lake Constance, its glass and concrete construction is a prime example of Zumthor’s minimalist architecture. Thanks to its façade, the interior light is ever-changing, depending on the installed exhibition on the inside, the colour of the sky, as well as the time of day.
In Switzerland, his Therme baths in Vals have become rather famous. The architect explained on ArchDaily: “Built over the only thermal springs in the Graubunden Canton in Switzerland, The Therme Vals is a hotel and spa in one which combines a complete sensory experience.”
“Peter Zumthor designed the spa/baths which opened in 1996 to pre-date the existing hotel complex. The idea was to create a form of cave or quarry like structure. Working with the natural surroundings the bathrooms lay below a grass roof structure half buried into the hillside. The Therme Vals is built from layer upon layer of locally quarried Valser Quarzite slabs. This stone became the driving inspiration for the design, and is used with great dignity and respect,” he added.
Not only a famous writer, Max Frisch (1911 – 1991) was also a qualified architect who brought some famous buildings to life. An example: The Letzigraben open-air swimming pool in Zurich. He was responsible for designing the entrance, the restaurant areas, and the changing room.
Mario Botta Architetti
Born in Mendrisio in Ticino, the Swiss architect Mario Botta has made a name for himself with a diverse variety of musems, sacred spaces, and homes. He designed his first building when he was only 16 years old. After his studies, he went on to create buildings on three contents, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Kyobo Tower in Seoul. He’s especially known for his churches, synagogues and other religious spaces, such as the Church of San Giovanni Battista in Mogno. Another example that is also situated in Switzerland is the Fiore di Pietra or Stone Flower. It’s a striking restaurant, made with gray natural stone, in an octagonal shape. Situated on top of Monte Generos, the restaurant’s architecture puts special emphasis on breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain landscape.
Other contemporary buildings in Switzerland not to miss:
- Casa Mi by Daluz González Architekten on Lake Zurich
- Mobimo Tower by Diener & Diener in Zurich
- Prime Tower by Annette Gigon and Mike Guyer in Zurich
- iSpace Pavilion by Davide Macullo Architects in Rossa
- Extension of the Stadtcasino Basel by Herzog & de Meuron
- Concrete House in Caviano by Wespi de Meuron Romeo architects
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