Renovating landmarks: Swiss News looks at the task of preserving Switzerland's landmark building heritage and the bond between architects and government design watchdogs.

AuteurShepard, Lyn
Fonction Feature

Question: How can architects reawaken a "sleeping beauty" in the Swiss Alps? Answer: With a truly princely "kiss", of course.

The government overseers of cultural preservation say this wakeup technique not only calls for tender resuscitation skills but a deep and abiding sensitivity to the nearly buried past. And this may require a princely pocketbook as well.

Two such renovation projects high in Canton Grisons' Albula Valley showcase the delicate touch. They also cast light on the need to rally dedicated investors if both the dream and the reawakening are to meet public approval.

The Projects

* The Bellaluna Restaurant, Bar, and Cultural House, an ambitious CHF. 1.5 million recreation of a humble forest inn dating back to about 1620, reopened this July after falling into ruins.

* The Kurhaus Hotel in Bergun, a one-time luxury hotel built in 1904, changed character after a 1949 fire that put its elegant past in mothballs for more than half a century. But a consortium headed by architectural partners is now breathing new life into the art-deco landmark structure.

Overseer for each of these projects is Thomas Meyer, a busy Chur-based architect within Canton Grisons' cultural preservation office. Meyer and a small staff now monitor at least 150 building projects here. Observers call Meyer a "sensitive official" whose approach encourages give-and-take exchanges with local project designers. Bellaluna co-owner, Surava-based building restorer Bruno Brazerol, speaks of the "good collaboration" his project enjoys with Meyer's office. Yet, he admits, that the interests of the canton and his investors sometimes clash.

"After all, we have to live with our building day in and day out," says Brazerol. It's not just a matter of design aesthetics. We have to consider the cost upfront, too.

Not Just 'Raisins'

Meyer and his two chief co-workers carry out their "militia system" tasks as custodians of Canton Grisons' cultural heritage with a high degree of autonomy.

Meyer's approach seeks a cultural "renaissance" in tandem with local initiators like designers Dalcher and Brazerol. And this applies to both Bellaluna and Bergun's Kurhaus.

"We're not just interested in the 'raisins in the cake'--the artistic relics," the bureaucrat explains. "We look at a project's success as whole. The Kurhaus, for instance, had an unbelievably important role in mirroring the classic hotels of earlier times. It's a high priority for us. Many such hotels were destroyed but the...

Pour continuer la lecture


VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT