Impressive architecture in Switzerland

Impressive architecture in Switzerland

The volume “Stadt, Land, Berg” has been published by niggli and collates impressive buildings from Swiss architecture in a leading international publication. With 300 images, it provides an overview of Switzerland’s most significant buildings created between 2004 and 2014. The selected projects are grouped into six chapters: from “Alps” and “Infrastructure” to “Recreation”, “Countryside”, “Suburbs” and “Cities”. The chapter structure itself is indicative of a feature unique to Switzerland, where architecturally relevant objects can even be found in isolated villages, like the Old Hospice at St. Gotthard Pass shown in the book. It also shows that, even in a country like Switzerland which is shaped by its rural heritage, architects are considering urban planning issues in order to respond to urban developments.

 

Stunning architectural projects in breath-taking photographs

The book presents a total of 50 projects, each of which is presented in detail over several large-format pages with breath-taking architectural photographs. Portraits of the buildings are made in their unique environment, with further, supplementary photos showing the special formal and material features. One example is Villa Vals, which veritably blends into its mountain landscape. The villa was cut into a slope and has just one façade, made from native quarried stone. The villa is accessed through a narrow underground tunnel from a small shed that serves as an entrance. By contrast, the extension for the Lausanne Opera House is characterised by its distinctive shape and stand-out façade made from brushed, sandblasted and glossy mirrored steel panels. However, the special thing about the extension is that it is scarcely visible from the public entrance to the historical building. Instead, it can only be seen fully from the side streets. The book also presents the new Messe Basel trade fair buildings, created by architects Herzog & de Meuron, one of the best-known international stakeholders on the Swiss architecture scene. The impressive ‘eye in the sky’ is the heart of the halls and has already become the trade fair’s trademark.

 

Explanations and documents round off “Stadt, Land, Berg”

The visually stunning book is framed with a preface, an introduction and the “Documentation” chapter. The introduction was written by exhibition designer, architecture critic and author Hubertus Adam. He sums up the development of more recent architecture in Switzerland and specifically highlights the special aspects of traditional Swiss construction and architectural features. For example, Swiss architecture is characterised by simple and understated buildings, where using traditional construction techniques and bringing them into the present day plays a major role. As a result, he says, the challenge for young architects is to take the tradition of Swiss architecture and find their own path. The “Documentation” chapter provides adequate scope for the project descriptions for the buildings as well as their footprints and the names of those involved. The presentation is reminiscent of blueprints, as commonly used in days gone by.

 

Architecture photography with an aesthetic value

Apart from documenting the buildings, the photographs reproduced in “Stadt, Land, Berg” have an additional value for the reader. This is because they portray the dichotomy between the photographer’s desire to document on the one hand and the aesthetic aspirations on the other. This dichotomy has existed ever since photography was invented. In her preface “Photoarchitectonics”, historian Nathalie Herschdorfer describes this phenomenon by emphasising the significance of photography for the perception of architecture. As a result, the images by the 40 photographers collated in this book have an aesthetic value and are also likely to win over fans of architecture and of photography alike.

Stadt, Land, Berg*

Posted on 02.11.2017

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