• Switzerland's news in English
Typical Swiss chalets ‘not actually Swiss’
'Swiss style' by a German architect. Image: courtesy of Daniel Stockhammer

Typical Swiss chalets ‘not actually Swiss’

The Local · 8 Sep 2016, 11:45

Published: 08 Sep 2016 11:45 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Daniel Stockhammer discovered the revelation as part of his doctoral thesis, the results of which are published in Horizons magazine this month.

His research focused on 19th century German architect Ernst Gladbach, a professor at the then newly-founded ETH Zurich, who created a comprehensive collection of sketches and plans of Swiss wooden houses .

In studying the drawings – which lay unpublished in the archives of the Swiss National Museum for a century – Stockhammer came across other, much older sketches of Swiss houses by architects from England, France and Germany.

He then realized it was these foreign architects who created the archetypal ‘Swiss’ style of chalet.

Speaking to The Local, Stockhammer said although wooden buildings have long been a part of Swiss rural architecture, they were “regionally so different that one could at most speak of local and regional traditions, not national ones”.

“The enormous diversity made it impossible to reduce these styles into a national Swiss style of wooden buildings”.

So foreign architects invented one.

In the late 18th and early 19th century wealthy foreign architects such as Briton Peter Frederick Robinson began travelling through Switzerland to draw and document the wooden buildings, said Stockhammer.

Back in London, they redrew these sketches, altering them in the process based on their own idealistic view of Switzerland.

“In this process, the architects did not stick closely to a faithful representation,” says Stockhammer.

Some parts were exaggerated, some were copied from different buildings and others “completely made up” to create “an idealistic picture of the Swiss house”.

This invented ‘Swiss national style’ represented a rural ideal for the European elites of the 18th and 19th century who then created buildings in this image in major European cities, according to Stockhammer.

The Rütlihaus before and after its transformation by Ernst Gladbach. Photo: courtesy of Daniel Stockhammer

Story continues below…

This architectural style was then transported back to Switzerland with the advent of mass tourism in the country.

“The tourists brought their idealized images (back) to Switzerland . The Swiss responded to the needs of guests [by building] hotels and railway stations but also kiosks and souvenirs in the Swiss style.

“Since, at the beginning, they did not know exactly how to build in the 'Swiss style', the architects and chalet-builders looked back at the original works of almost exclusively foreign architects for inspiration.”

Stockhammer was particularly surprised to find that even the Rütlihaus – the 'original' Swiss house on the Rütli meadow, considered the birthplace of Switzerand – was the invention of German Gladbach, who studied the original building before it was demolished and then created a new, ‘more real’ version.

“To a great extent, Switzerland owes its national style, and its success, to tourists,” concludes Stockhammer.

For more news from Switzerland, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.ch)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Immigration to Switzerland falls as emigration rises
File photo: The Local

Immigration in Switzerland has fallen considerably this year, according to official figures.

Wawrinka aces his way into Basel quarterfinals
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The home favourite returns to the quarterfinals of the Swiss Indoors for the first time in five years.

Illegal immigrant dies after setting himself on fire
The victim was treated at University Hospital Zurich. Photo: University Hospital Zurich

The 45-year-old Tunisian was threatened with deportation.

Swiss government rejects call for second immigration vote
Photo: Justus Blumer/Christophe G

The Swiss government has rejected a popular initiative calling for a revote on plans to limit immigration.

Bern: companies should report salary inequality by law
File photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The Swiss government wants to force small companies to examine their rates of pay every four years.

Husband in custody after Orbe body identified
File photo: Bas Leenders

The deceased is a 55-year-old woman who lived in the house with her husband.

Presented by MoneyPark
How to get a mortgage in Switzerland
Houses in Zürich. Photo: Pixabay.

Ready to buy? Here’s what you need to know as an expat about Swiss regulations, how to finance your purchase, and why you should use a broker.

Autumn in Switzerland: ten stunning Instagram photos
Photo: Swiss Tourism/Jan Geerk

Switzerland is beautiful in all seasons, but as these photos show, autumn is a special time in the alpine country.

Report: Swiss progress slows on gender equality
File photo: David Soulivet

Globally, it will take 170 years to achieve gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum.

Brothers go to court to stop suicide of sibling
File photo: Lisa Edmonds

Two men have filed a legal bid to prevent the Swiss assisted suicide association Exit from helping their older brother to kill himself.

Photo: Unterirdisch Ueberleben
Inside Switzerland’s largest nuclear bunker – 40 years on
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: The Local
Ticino firefighters rescue cow from swimming pool
Photo: Antoni Da Campo
Vegan wins battle to be accepted by Swiss army
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Ten Swiss ski resorts named most expensive in Europe
Photo: Randy Kashka
Swiss women will ‘work for free’ for the rest of year
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Montreux throws hat in Olympic rings
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Seven things you’ll miss about Switzerland if you leave
Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
jobs available