Culture of Construction
The alpine cultural landscape of Graubünden is shaped not only by castles, mansions, medieval churches and the farmhouses of the Engadine, but also by excellent examples of modern architecture – from Peter Zumthor’s thermal baths in Vals to Gion Caminada’s structures in Lugnez. Information about the individual structures comes from The Swiss Art History Society (GSK), 2008. and from Hochparterre, Magazine for Architecture and Design.
Graubünden is not only known for its mountains and tourism, but for its castles and mansions, medieval churches and paintings and the farmhouses of the Engadine Valley. Built upon this rich tradition, Graubünden has quietly and slowly grown to be one of the most important regions in Switzerland for contemporary architecture of the last 30 years. We will guide you to the most outstanding examples of recent architecture in Graubünden. There are five reasons for their diversity, beauty and quality:
1. The dramatic landscape, the history and the diversity of the terrain. Building in Graubünden has something archaic and metaphysical about it: 'I am my surroundings.' says the building. In spite of wounds, tears and daily transgressions caused by thoughtless building, there are still many intact villages which have been carefully complimented and expanded. These locations are not museums but rather carefully extended living spaces.
2. History and the history of living spaces are well loved in Graubünden. This affinity seeks expression. Here one must be careful - with all respect for local relationships, too much proximity can mar the broader perspective. Tradition and local perspective are not sufficient. Good architects must have a global orientation. They are part of an international, technical and aesthetic development.
3. Small businesses in the building trade have a high capacity for expertise and perfection in their work. Every architect knows a master builder, a carpenter, a tiler, a stove builder or a plasterer that he would vouch for. High quality work has its price and an equally high standard. The ability to build is absolutely requisite for building well.
4. New architecture in Graubünden is a topic for cultural debate in the canton. Organisations such as the Bündner Heritage Trust, the written media and / or the Televisiun Rumantscha see to it that this discussion takes place. The Museum of Fine Art in Chur and especially the Gelbe Haus in Flims have dedicated notable exhibitions to architecture.
5. The canton and the local municipalities play an exemplary role as good caretakers. The Cantonal Agency for the Preservation of Historic Buildings and Monuments is the roving conscience for careful treatment of its historical assets. For new buildings, the choices made in the architectural competitions are decisive. Following the challenge to be broad-minded, these decisions have made it possible for most of the architects with a name and a reputation to open firms here in the canton. The list of important ateliers in the canton, which have won significant competitions includes: Bearth & Deplazes, Jüngling & Hagmann, Richard Brosi, Robert Obrist and Peter Zumthor. To be sure, private owners have also contributed pearls to the picture. But it should be said that the most important industry, the tourist industry, still has much to learn. It is astounding how slow this sector is in becoming aware of the economic potential in the culture of construction . An example of how much good architecture can bring to tourism is seen in the Thermal Baths in Vals. There have never been so many visitors to Vals in its history.
It is imperitive to go there, become aware of landscapes, spaces, moods, sense stories, enjoy details one on one.
(Köbi Gantenbein, Editor in Chief: Hochparterre, Zurich/Malans)
The present-day Graubünden cover an area which is included within the much larger region of the Diocese of Chur and which in turn belonged to the older dioceses situated north of the Alps. The remains of buildings and smaller works of art dating from the 5th century bear witness to this long religious continuity.
Chur was elevated to the function of the capital of the Roman province Rhaetia Prima in about the year 300 AD. In 451 AD there is documentary proof of Chur being the bishop’s seat. The beginnings of Christianity in what is now called Graubünden could have been quite a bit earlier; the diocese might have been established as early as the latter part of the 4th century AD. A traditional building that originated from this early Christian period exists in astounding completeness in the north-east sector of the cathedral. The barrel (or tunnel) vault grave chamber is the oldest rising masonry architectural monument in Graubünden and is considered to be the most noteworthy of its kind north of the Alps. It is assumed that it was built in the first half of the 5th century AD as a burial site for the bishops of Chur. In the year 500 a church dedicated to Saint Stephan was built above it. This, like the other early Christian / late antiquity and also Christian cultic buildings of the Merovingian era, can only be substantiated (verified) by their floor plans.
Constructional testimonies of the first Christianisation phase in Graubünden can be found in the cathedral in Chur, alongside the Vorder (anterior) Rhine (Sagogn and Trun), in Bonaduz and on High Rialt (Hohenrätien), in Mesocco, Tiefencastel, in the Schams (Zillis) and in the Prättigau (Schiers). These selective archaeological findings document the spread of Christianity in the principal areas of settlement of the diocese in the course of the 5th and 6th centuries.
We are dealing with churches with simple (unostentatious) halls with or without an apsis. The latter of which is either drawn into the nave or is built directly onto the walls of the nave. Some of them are flanked by annexes. Though their exact prototypes can seldom be defined, impulses come from southern (Upper Italy) and south-easterly (Balkan) regions. Special mention should be made of the concentrical composition of free-standing priests benches in the semi-circle of the apsis which cannot be found anywhere else in Switzerland. This can be detected in St. Stephan in Chur and is also assumed to be in the first church in Sagogn and probably goes back to models in the Adriatic cultural domain. The baptistery with an octagonal baptismal font which was recently excavated inside the castle enclosure ’Hohenrätien’ (High Rialt) above Sils in the Domleschg belongs to the earliest of its kind and suggests a connection to the Upper Italian region.
Handicraft objects which testify to the early Christianisation of Graubünden that are archaeologically monumental discoveries: an ivory medicinal box from the end of the 4th century, the function of which was changed to one of a relic receptacle; or a slightly younger relic receptacle made of partially gilded silver. Both are kept in the cathedral’s treasury of Chur. (Ludmila Seifert-Uherkovich)
Lit.: KAISER REINHOLD: ‚Das Frühmittelalter (Ende 5. bis Mitte 10. Jahrhundert)’, in: Handbuch der Bündner Geschichte, Bd. 1 (Frühzeit bis Mittelalter), hrsg. vom Verein für Bündner Kulturforschung, Chur 2000, S. 99-137, bes. S. 109-111.
POESCHEL ERWIN: Die Kunstdenkmäler des Kantons Graubünden (Die Kunstdenkmäler der Schweiz), hrsg. von der Gesellschaft für Schweizerische Kunstgeschichte, Bd. 1, Basel 1937, S. 14-17.
SENNHAUSER HANS RUDOLF (Hrsg.): Frühe Kirchen im östlichen Alpengebiet. Von der Spätantike bis in ottonische Zeit, 2 Bde., München 2003.
SULSER WALTHER, CLAUSSEN HILDE: Sankt Stephan in Chur. Frühchristliche Grabkammer und Friedhofskirche (Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für Denkmalpflege an der ETH Zürich 1), Zürich 1978.
The region around Chur was religiously and culturally orientated toward the south and artistically still entirely under the influence of the ancient world up until the time that the Chur diocese was incorporated into the archdiocese of Mainz in 843 AD. Large, exceptionally well-preserved works from the time around 800 AD are found in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Cloister of Müstair and the former minster in Mistail near Alvaschein.
The Carolingian epoch gave Graubünden sacral monuments of singular standing: for instance the trikonchos construction of the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Müstair, which is based on examples from the Mediterranean and the Near East; the Rotunda of Saint Lucio in San Vittore which has its roots in Roman cemetery architecture; the round ton ring crypt in the St. Luzi Church, Chur, the oldest of its kind in Switzerland; or the beehive shaped Placidus Crypt in the Cloister of Disentis. No other form of construction influenced the idea of sacred architecture of Graubünden at the time of Charlemagne and his successors more than the so-called tri-apsidal hall. This is an undivided flat-ceilinged rectangular space which is completed in the east by three horse-shoe shaped spaces with half-cupola arches. The uniqueness of this solution is not that the three apsides are side by side, but the fact that there is not a division of the nave into three parts to correspond to the number three. Accordingly planned constructions can be found in the early Christian period in the Orient as well as in the area of the upper Adriatic Sea. The type was most likely imported to Chur Rhaetia in the outgoing 8th century. A Carolingian tri-apsidal layout of the former cloister church of St. Peter of Mistail has been preserved in a uniquely authentic manner. Even the cloister church of St. John of Müstair is capable of imparting the beauty of this form of construction even though the original spatial feeling was changed there by the late Gothic vaulting of the nave. Otherwise the type can be archaeologically documented in an obviously singular form at different places in the canton: in Chur, Tumegl/Tomils, Zillis, Pleif near Vella, Sagogn, Disentis and Ramosch. The tri-apsidal hall should not be considered a universal type in churches of Graubünden in the flourishing cultural period of those times even though it is not to be found anywhere else in such density. It appears more likely to have been reserved for religious buildings of particularly high standing such as cloister churches and parish churches. The majority of the houses of God that were built then were more modest buildings which kept to the common floor plans of the late antiquity: halls with or without apsides, incorporated or not, and some with apsides in the wall. The cloister church of Müstair conveys an impression of the sacral interior decoration of the time around 800 AD where a Carolingian fresco cycle, which has been extensively preserved, stretches over all the walls. Indications of the lavish interior design of at least the most prestigious churches of the Carolingian period can be seen in the sumptuous number of stucco fragments in Disentis and the marble slabs in weave pattern in the cathedral of Chur and the church of Müstair.
Lit.: GOLL-GASSMANN JÜRG, MATTHIAS EXNER, SUSANNE HIRSCH: Müstair: Die mittelalterlichen Wandmalereien in der Klosterkirche. UNESCO-Welterbe, Zürich 2007.
Kunstgeschichtliches Seminar Universität Zürich: St. Peter Mistail GR (Schweizerische Kunstführer), hrsg. von der Gesellschaft für Schweizerische Kunstgeschichte, Bern 1997 (4. Aufl.).
POESCHEL ERWIN: Die Kunstdenkmäler des Kantons Graubünden (Die Kunstdenkmäler der Schweiz), hrsg. von der Gesellschaft für Schweizerische Kunstgeschichte, Bd. 1, Basel 1937, S. 19-34.
The period between 1000 and 1300 AD was the high period of the nobility and centres for small principalities and estate alliances. In the course of the ’castle dying’ period of the late Middle Ages, most of the constructions were left to ruin and some were later restored as palaces. (Ludmila Seifert-Uherkovich)
The oldest rising masonry walls which bear testimony to the profane culture of construction in Graubünden belong to the construction of barrages. The earliest known defendable domicile in Switzerland which belongs to our region is the Planta Tower of the Cloister Müstair, built in 957. Though the numerous castles that can be found scattered around the countryside of Graubünden are more prominent; their builders possessed a sure instinct for their choice of location on knolls, mountain cliffs and rock outcroppings, well apart from village settlements and visible from far away. The centrality of the noble manors reflects, through sheer number, the difficult power circumstances in feudal Raetia. The beginning of the building of castles in Graubünden can be set in the 11th century; it experienced its heyday in the 12th and 13th centuries. Numerous castles were built by the admirable rulers of the country namely by the bishop of Chur, the most powerful manor and liege lords, but also by the nobel aristocratic sovereignty. This last group was able to emancipate itself from the bishop and establish its own secular territorial authority (barons of Vaz, Rhäzüns, Sax-Misox, Matsch et al). Besides that, lords of knightly rank also built castles, whether it was as vassals and servants of country lords or under their own direction, as a way to mark their often modest statuses of command. Many castles were constructed in clearings in the course of the colonization of priorly unsettled or barely settled areas of the interior during the High Middle Ages. The major part of the Rhaetian castle inventory belongs to the category of small symbolic / representative castles rather than to the militarily effective sort, consisting of a tower-like main building, surrounded by farm buildings and a well-fortified curtain wall. More complex facilities, as for instance Belfort Castle in the Albula Valley which groups a main tower, a gate tower, palace and secondary buildings around a walled central courtyard, are more often the exception and should be considered as lordly country residences. Some facilities stand out because of the large, but hardly overbuilt inside area which is dominated by a sacred building. It is unclear whether these church castles, that can be dated back to the Early Middle Ages and which were feudalized after the turn of the millennium, are to be interpreted as getaway castles or as permanently inhabited administrative centers.
The castles that were more often than not left to ruin in the Late Middle Ages became significant as status symbols for the early modern ruling classes. They were more likely to build themselves more comfortable houses in the villages or rebuild isolated ancient facilities into palaces without command functions. In those days the walled domestic towers that the village upper classes also had built for themselves from the 13th century on were converted or integrated into newer houses. Formally they were clearly separated from the surrounding barnyards with wooden structures.
Lit.: CLAVADETSCHER OTTO P., MEYER WERNER: Das Burgenbuch von Graubünden, Zürich und Schwäbisch Hall 1984.
MEYER WERNER: ‚Das Hochmittelalter (10. bis Mitte 14. Jahrhundert)’, in: Handbuch der Bündner Geschichte, Bd. 1 (Frühzeit und Mittelalter), hrsg. vom Verein für Bündner Kulturforschung, Chur 2000, S. 138-193.
With the general increase in population and the consequence that building extended into the country, the density of churches increased in the Middle Ages. Small parishes broke off from the large country parishes of the early Middle Ages and were the source of numerous ecclesiastic constructions. One central enterprise during the Romanesque period was the building of the cathedral in Chur. A famous example of Romanesque decoration is the painted wooden ceiling of the church in Zillis, 1114.
For the first time in Graubünden, a church with three naves was realised between 1151 and 1272: the new cathedral in Chur (parts of the original church date back to the 5th century). Up until this time, even the most prestigious of religious sites had kept to the tradition of an undivided hall of worship. The only exception in the ecclesiastical constructions of the time is the two-nave Chapel of St Lorenz in Paspels, built between the 11th and 12th centuries. Two churches, modelled after the floor plan of the cathedral are the Romanesque Collegiata in S Vittore and the Minster in Churwalden. The multiple-nave principle was also followed in the new construction of the east-wing of the St. Luzi church in Chur. This concurred with the solution taken over in all of Switzerland, which called for a three-sectioned hall crypt with adjoining choir. The few larger building projects of the late Romanesque in Graubünden don't provide a representative picture of ecclesiastical building principles of the time. The Romanesque ecclesiastical building principles used at this time in Graubünden, show a tenacious adherence to certain known and accepted forms and ideas: a square room with an integrated apse closing off the altar. Even buildings without the segregation of nave and choir are still found. The insistence with which certain ideas and tendencies are used again and again can be seen as a typically Grisonian characteristic in both art and culture.
The rather humble ecclesiastical buildings (at least from an architectural point of view) with at the most a blind arch, gain monumental impact due to their locations. With a refined sense of topographical conditions, the local builders chose to set their small churches on exposed sites at the edge of the village, on a hill in the middle of the village, or on some dominant point, thus setting them off from the surrounding buildings. In addition, they were accentuated by their bell towers, a common practice in the Raetian areas. There was little use of sculptural ornamentation in the small rural Romanesque churches compared to the richly ornamented cathedral in Chur. The artistic ornamentation was restricted to paintings. Significant examples of high mediaeval ecclesiastic paintings can be seen in the frescoes in the Minster at Müstair in Sta Maria. The paintings were accomplished by ateliers from the area around Venice and the south Tirol and show Byzantine characteristics. The St Martin church in Zillis has the oldest complete example of a Romanesque painted ceiling in the western world. The ceiling, depicting figures and stories, created by local artists in the Lombardi style, was painted around 1114. (Ludmila Seifert-Uherkovich)
Lit.: POESCHEL ERWIN: Die Kunstdenkmäler des Kantons Graubünden (Die Kunstdenkmäler der Schweiz), hrsg. von der Gesellschaft für Schweizerische Kunstgeschichte, Bd. 1, Basel 1937, S. 35-64.
For the first time in Graubünden an artistic individual, the Waltensburg Master, can be recognized and identified, albeit under a hypothetical name. Many frescoes - especially in churches in the northern part of the canton - from the time between 1320 and 1350 have been attributed to him and his atelier. These exemplars count among the most beautiful witnesses of courtly culture in Switzerland.
During the middle ages, the interior walls of the most important ecclesiastical buildings - at least in the area of the choir - were allowed to be decorated with paintings of religious subjects. Organised into workshops, painters from the north, south and east travelled from place to place and were responsible for the decoration of the churches. Many of these early and high medieval paintings have been removed through renovations of later epochs. In Graubünden, an extraordinary number of wall paintings from the 14th century (the remaining examples make up only a part of the original inventory of gothic painting in the region) have survived. Among these, around 20 works - categorised for their stylistic and technical similarities as belonging to one workshop with exceptional artistic quality and being particularly numerous - are outstanding among the works of the day.
There is no possibility of identifying historically the actual master responsible for these works. He is therefore titled according to his most important work, the Passion-cycle in the church at Waltensburg. The work reveals a stylistic relationship to the miniatures, which were painted around 1300 in Zurich, the 'Codex Manesse'. Even though the courtly subtleties of these illustrations are less pronounced in the wall paintings of the Waltensburger Master, it is thought that indications are given to point to an artist stemming from the southern German region (the Lake of Constance or Upper Rhine area) rather than a local artist. It is possible that the Vaz family, the most powerful noble family of Raetia, brought him into the alpine area. Here he then founded his own workshop. His employers belonged - for the most part - to the ecclesiastic and knightly upper class.
The wall paintings have been created with the highest quality fresco techniques. The Waltensburger master is especially known for great intensity of colour. The figures are characteristically thin, contoured with a dark line, which separates them from the mainly blue or red-starred on white background. The details of the faces, shown in ¾ profile, are delicate but firm: the eyes are almond shaped, including lid and brows, the noses and the noticeably small mouths, the finely shaped ears, as well as the soft, shoulder-length hair, which is combed back from the face, all details carefully show the artists' ability to draw the observer into the picture, whether in worship or in mystic wonder. (Ludmila Seifert-Uherkovich)
Lit.: POESCHEL ERWIN: Die Kunstdenkmäler des Kantons Graubünden (Die Kunstdenkmäler der Schweiz), hrsg. von der Gesellschaft für Schweizerische Kunstgeschichte, Bd. 1, Basel 1937, S. 72-82.
RAIMANN ALFONS: Gotische Wandmalereien in Graubünden. Die Werke des 14. Jahrhunderts im nördlichen Teil Graubündens und im Engadin, Disentis/Mustér 1983.
Eggenberger Christoph und Dorothee: Malerei des Mittelalters (Ars Helvetica, Bd. V), Disentis 1989, S. 66-79.
A building boom occurred in all of Europe during the second half of the 15th century and in the early part of the 16th century. In Graubünden new churches, chapels or at least new chancels and altars were the result. In connection with this, many winged altars from Southern German workshops were imported and can still be found in the Roman Catholic regions of the canton today.
Building activity in Graubünden appears to have been very slight during the period from the end of the 13th to the mid-15th centuries. As examples of sacred buildings of those times go, the choir of the church Sogn Gieri (St. George) in Rhäzüns and both churches in Trimmis stand out because of their rib vault ceilings. These had begun to orient themselves to Gothic formulas of construction even though, in their massiveness and the prototypical sparseness of their masonry, there resonates a distinct romanesque feeling for form.
The romanesque forms in Graubünden were not totally superceded until between 1450 and 1525 when, in the framework of a marked wave of construction, a decisive change in the composition of the sacred space was brought about. The institutions that supported this active building period were the communities, which became the most important political actors in the course of the Late Middle Ages. They self-assuredly sought to assert their autonomy from the old feudal tribes and the diocese by using new styles or by renovating church buildings in the then-contemporary style of the Late Gothic period.
The ideal type of Late Gothic churches in Graubünden consisted of a rectangle nave and a drawn-in, polygonally closed choir with geometrically constructed rib configurations in the vault. This modified type and its numerous variations were usually imparted by Austrian stone masons and master builders. The Late Gothic sacral buildings of Graubünden take a special position in the inventory of monuments of Switzerland for their apparently numerous, and in view of the relative poverty of the country, astonishingly complete vaulting. But the vaulting construction was not consistently executed everywhere, in many places only the polygonal choir received such an elaborate finish. In the nave we often come across wooden ceilings as are generally expected for churches of the Early to Late Middle Ages in our area. The vaulting of the nave, which was introduced in Graubünden with the romanesque building of the cathedral of Chur, made a great exception for a long time. Along with the traditional, flat wood ceilings, wooden ceilings with half-round or polygonal cross sections appeared. This complied with the preference for a spatial sense that opens upwards.
The tradition of painting the interior of a church had been retained in the Late Gothic. Carved winged altars, supplied by Southern German workshops, then became the central piece of decoration of the church. They are not otherwise found to this day in such a singular density in all of Switzerland as they are in Graubünden. The original inventory of them has however been drastically depleted because the decorated altarpieces disappeared in reformed areas within a few years of their installation and, in the areas affected by the Baroque wave of the contra-reformation, they often had to yield to 'more modern' altars. (Ludmila Seifert-Uherkovich)
Lit.: BECKERATH ASTRID VON, NAY MARC ANTONI, RUTISHAUSER HANS (Hrsg.): Spätgotische Flügelaltäre in Graubünden und im Fürstentum Liechtenstein, Chur 1998.
NAY MARC ANTONI: ‚Architektur, Plastik und Malerei von der Gotik bis zum Rokoko’, in: Handbuch der Bündner Geschichte, Bd. 2 (Frühe Neuzeit), hrsg. vom Verein für Bündner Kulturforschung, Chur 2000, S. 237-260, bes. 247-249.
POESCHEL ERWIN: Die Kunstdenkmäler des Kantons Graubünden (Die Kunstdenkmäler der Schweiz), hrsg. von der Gesellschaft für Schweizerische Kunstgeschichte, Bd. 1, Basel 1937, S. 65-148.
The schoolmaster, poet, chronicler and muralist, Hans Ardüser (1557 – 1617), was what one would call a prototype of a rural universal man. In the winter months of the time around 1600 he read „vil 100“ (many hundreds of) books and copied pictures out of them. He utilized these subjects in murals in private houses and churches. The murals are fascinating in their artistic ineptness as well as in their spontaneity.
Among the painters who were active in Graubünden around 1600, Hans Ardüser stands out as a notable figure; for one thing because of a voluminous group of works which can be connected to him, and for another on the basis of his written legacy, not the least of which is an autobiography as well as two chronicles which span a period between 1572 to 1614. Ardüser’s notes highlight the conditions of life for a provincial artist at the turn of the 16th to the 17th century. Born in 1557 as the son of the later Landammann (the chief official of the Swiss community) of Davos, Ardüser attended the Latin school at Chur in 1570-73. He quickly terminated his scholastics as a lay preacher in Zurich, which he had begun in 1577. After a short time as a teacher in Maienfeld, he let himself be instructed in 1579 at Feldkirch by the painters of the Castelberg Altar in the cloister church at Disentis (1572), Moritz and Jörg Frosch. Afterwards he let himself be hired out as assistant to Franz Apenzäller for the duration of two summers. Apenzäller was the only known master of that period in Chur. None of his works remains today. Educating himself, Ardüser became independent, settled in several different places as a teacher during the winters, while going about his artistry in summer. In search of work, he wandered around Graubünden on foot, loaded down with paints and painting equipment, promoting his services. Of the over 100 works in about 45 villages and valleys that he himself mentioned, only around a fifth still remain. Except for the altar he painted in 1601 in the village church of Vella, all of these are murals on the facades and in interior rooms of rural and aristocratic houses, as well as in and on churches of both confessions. The gap between Ardüser’s colourful works and the European fine art of the period leading from the Renaissance to the Baroque is unimaginably large. His awkwardly drawn figures with softly moving contours attest to his incapacity to correctly reproduce the proportions of the human body. Nor does it appear that he was particularly familiar with the rules of spatial perspective. The unconcerned manner which Ardüser eagerly used to confer the themes he had found in printed templates (opulent patterns, contemporary costumes, antique allegories, biblical scenes, exotic animals) into the monumental and sometimes without a recognizable principle of composition, set additively one next to the other, gives his work a freshness and forcefulness that one is hard sought after to find elsewhere. (Ludmila Seifert-Uherkovich)
Lit.: DOSCH LEZA: ‚Ardüser Hans’, in: Biografisches Lexikon der Schweizer Kunst, Bd. 1, hrsg. vom Schweizerischen Institut für Kunstwissenschaft, Zürich 1998, S. 39-41.
WYSS ALFRED: ‚Hans Ardüser’, in: Unsere Kunstdenkmäler, XXIV, 1973/3, S. 171-184.
Zinsli Paul: Der Malerpoet Hans Ardüser, Chur 1986.
The Engadine house is given, to a certain extent, an iconic significance among alpine domiciles. The type of house, developed during the 15th and 16th centuries and built in the Engadine and in other neighbouring valleys into the late 18th century, lends an almost urban touch to the villages where they stand.
At the beginning of the 20th century most of the buildings in Graubünden could be categorised as 'farming architecture'. In a certain sense, the Engadine house was almost synonymous for a Grisonian farmhouse although they were not found in every part of the canton. Graubünden is, on the contrary, marked by a very varied style of house building. The Engadine house is found in the Bergell valley, the Albula and Munster valleys and of course in the Engadine valley where they represented - between the 16th and the late 18th centuries - the only accepted building-type. Most Engadine houses are stonework multi-purpose buildings. They are the combination of diverse elements formerly separated and isolated (according to function) of a farming unit. In contrast to other combined farm units, where the fire house the sleeping house the storehouse the stall and the barn are built together in one unit, the Engadine house also includes the arbour and yard including the manure heap. The originality of these unique houses stems from the integration of the 'outside' areas into the 'inside' areas. The function is that of an 'internal street' leading to the working section of the farm. There are no separate exits for the stall and the barn. The roadway leads through the living area: the ground level 'Sulèr' to the barn and the 'Cuort' - a hollowed out pathway leads to the stall. This special concept lends to the Engadine farmhouse one of its most distinctive characteristics: the two large, double-winged front doors, which are staggered by half a storey, one of which is measured to allow for the entrance of the hay wagon. A second characteristic for the appearance of the Engadine house, is the picturesque asymmetrical ordering - varying in size and form - of the recessed windows within the massive stone fronts of the buildings. The order of the windows does not reflect artistic thought but functionality. Here one can observe the highly differentiated use of the inner spaces of the building. Conscious artistic work is manifested on the decorative outer walls. Often 'sgraffito' is used, varied by the style of the epoch. Sgraffito came into use as early as the 16th century from Italy. The walls are plastered with damp lime. Designs are scratched into the lime revealing the darker plaster below. Further ornamental elements of the Engadine house are the small bay windows and wrought iron window gratings. These add filigree lightness to the otherwise heavy bodied building. (Ludmila Seifert-Uherkovich)
Lit.: KÖNZ IACHEN ULRICH: Das Engadinerhaus (Schweizer Heimatbücher 191), Bern 1994 (4., überarb. Aufl.).
KÖNZ IACHEN ULRICH, WIDMER EDUARD: Sgraffito im Engadin und Bergell, Zürich 1977.
SIMONETT CHRISTOPH: Die Bauernhäuser des Kantons Graubünden (Die Bauernhäuser der Schweiz, Bde. 1 und 2), hrsg. von der Schweizerischen Gesellschaft für Volkskunde, 2 Bde., Basel 1965 und 1968.
After the uncertainty of the Reformation, the ecclesiastical building of the Catholic Church experienced in the 17th century a similar upswing as to that of the Late Gothic Period. The churches, built in the High Baroque style - with their unprecedented grandiosity and splendour - were used in the service of the counter-reformation. The new architecture was also used in some protestant churches.
At the emergence of the Reformation, each community of the 'Three Leagues' was allowed to accept or reject the new religious ideas. The domestic and foreign political tensions ('Bündner Confusion' 1618-1642), which had been caused by the splitting of the faith, lasted until 1610. At the end, religious-confessional clefts remained which are still seen today in the communal landscape of Graubünden. After the re-establishment of peace, ecclesiastical building, which had so long been paralysed, increased greatly - particularly in the areas which had remained Catholic or were re-Catholicised such as the Puschlav, the Moesano, the Oberland and the lower Albula valleys. The main part of the ecclesiastical building in these areas included a modernisation in the high Baroque style, whether through new ornamentation, new building or renovations. New large churches were built. But it was mostly the numerous small and the smallest of chapels, in the most remote places, which proclaimed the counter-reformation movement and the revitalisation of the Catholic Church. Often north Italian Capuchin monks served these churches/chapels. Due to this, most of the Baroque buildings have an Italian style even though the biggest and most significant example of this epoch in Graubünden, the collegiate Minster in Disentis was built under the auspices of the Vorarlberg School of construction.
In contrast to the community churches of the late Gothic period, the ecclesiastical buildings of the high Baroque follow no uniform building schema. There are examples of churches laid out in the form of a Latin cross, with a monks' choir and side chapel beautifully seen in the parish church at Tiefencastel. The parish church in Rhazuns, on the other hand, has a central nave construction; smoothly whitewashed facades adorned with pilasters and decorative moulding on the main façade, a polygonal bell tower with a curved dome and colourfully painted towers. It sets a novel focus of interest into the countryside. The interior of the churches is also decidedly different. Masters from the Moesa valley created stucco decorations - both architectural and ornamental, which became an indispensable part of the décor and, combined with the frescoes, made an illusion of dissolving into the heavenly kingdom. New accents were also set by the sheer number of new altars each an enormous, richly artistic structure. The baroque building euphoria also took hold in many protestant communities. We see ecclesiastical constructions with completely independent formats. An example is Samedan: the parish church, conceived as optimal for preaching, transformed the protestant church service. (Ludmila Seifert-Uherkovich)
Lit.: DOSCH LUZI, WALDMANN URS: ‚Savognin und die Barockkunst der Kapuziner’, in: Savognin. Geschichte, Wirtschaft, Gemeinschaft, hrsg. von der Gemeinde Savognin, Savognin 1988, S. 203ff.
POESCHEL ERWIN: Die Kunstdenkmäler des Kantons Graubünden (Die Kunstdenkmäler der Schweiz), hrsg. von der Gesellschaft für Schweizerische Kunstgeschichte, Bd. 1, Basel 1937, S. 149-256.
WYSS ALFRED: ‚Protestantischer Kirchenbau in den Südtälern des Gotteshausbundes’, in: Festschrift 600 Jahre Gotteshausbund, Chur 1967, S. 489-506.
Regional loyalties influenced building styles in Graubünden from the end of the Middle Ages. The mansions in the 16th and 17th centuries emanated originally from the local farmhouse then gradually progressed into an independent form. The mansion was developed as a response of the bourgeoisie to the aristocracy in the 19th century.
Many historic town centres inGraubünden are marked by the presence of at least one baroque building, recognisable by its stately character in contrast to the simpler farm buildings. A family coat of arms, hanging in a prominent place on the house façade identifies the aristocratic families. These families controlled the politics at the time of the independent 'free states of the Three Leagues' (16th - 18th centuries). Although the 'Three Leagues' was formally democratically constituted, in reality there were strong oligarchic traits, in which only a relatively small number of families dominated. The decentralised organisation of the 'free state' caused a wide scattering of aristocratic residences over the entire canton (according to today's borders). A personal investment in one of the approximately 50 practically autonomous communities was the basis of every political career. An imposing residence was meant to express the social prestige brought to the leading powers through their offices of leadership over their subjects in the Veltlin and Chiavenna or through their military service or legations to the European courts. Wealth was also gained through the transport of goods and trade. Similar to the way in which the upper class in Graubünden considered itself - to a certain extent - as one of the people, their buildings also showed some common elements. The infinity to village life revealed itself not only in an organisational integration in the already existing settlement structures, but also in the continuation of the regional agrarian type of building. The façades were humble and only recognisable by a larger dimension, a more accentuated entrance and by hiding the wooden structures. The interior decoration: valuable paneling and vaulted ceilings, showed a growing effort to distinguish themselves from the farmers' ways. After the 2nd half of the 17th century, the Italian 'palazzo' style with a middle vaulted corridor and rooms ordered on both sides became the preferred model for the Grisonian aristocracy. The upper-class architecture became finer. Many aristocratic houses, particularly of the family von Salis, were expanded into almost castle-like residences.
In the 19th century, an emigration resulted from a necessity to find work elsewhere. As these sugar-bakers returned with financial means, they brought with them the idea of the classical villa a witness to the increasing acceptance of international architectural trends for use in secular building. (Ludmila Seifert-Uherkovich)
Lit.: POESCHEL ERWIN: Das Bürgerhaus im Kanton Graubünden (Das Bürgerhaus in der Schweiz, Bde. XII, XIV, XVI), hrsg. vom Schweizerischen Ingenieur- und Architektenverein, 3 Bde., Zürich 1923-1925.
The construction of pathways and roads is one of the oldest tasks of civilisation. In mountainous regions it has always demanded an enormous effort. The difficult topography led to astounding feats of engineering. An example is the Viamala, first built in the Middle Ages and improved in the 18th century. Great works of the early 19th century were the north-south transit routes over the San Bernardino and Splügen Passes. In the 20th century, the Swiss National motorway A13 through the newly built San Bernardino Tunnel connected the Ticino and the Moesa Valleys with the eastern regions of Switzerland.
In the late 15th century the loosely organised, but still independent free states of the Three Leagues was formed. Under Napoleon's dictate, the region joined the Confederation as the Canton Graubünden in 1803. From an early point on, the mountain area between Germany and Italy was highly significant as a traffic axis. Transit routes crossed over the Lukmanier Pass and the central passes: San Bernardino, Splügen, Septimer and the Julier. Any other north-south connections were solely footpath or mule-track. As late as 1807 only the routes through the Bergell and the entire Inn Valley, or the connections from Chur in the direction of Ragaz and St. Luzisteig were manoeuvrable roads. Small wagons travelled over the Lenzerheide, the Septimer and the Albula Passes and from Chur to Splügen in fair weather and under favourable conditions.
Modern road construction began in Graubünden with the so-called 'Kunst- oder Kommerzialstrassen'. These were roads, which were beautiful in their own right and trade roads. The Deutschestrasse from the border of Lichtenstein to Chur was built from 1782-1788. From 1818-1823 the lower routes over the Splügen Pass as well as the San Bernardino Pass were added. As third priority, the upper routes over the Julier and Maloja Passes were built from 1820-1840. After completion of the transit routes, the road network in Graubünden was further refined by the construction of connecting roads and communal streets.
Building roads in the lowlands has always differed from the laying of roadbeds in terrain on an incline. Even today the use of straight avenues through the plains, further optimised by the use of dams, can be observed on the Deutschestrasse near Landquart and Maienfeld. Through the use of cuts and terraces, the engineers who built the roads of beauty ('Kunststrassen') - Giulio Pocobelli and Richard La Nicca over the San Bernardino, and Carlo Donegani over the Splügen - attempted to project the ideals of classical generosity onto the narrow, steep alpine conditions. Hairpin curves shape the pass roads. Important individual works of the 19th century still remain on the Splügen route: the quasi neo-Gothic tunnel, the marble bridge and the avalanche-protection gallery between the Swiss and the Italian customs.
One section of the present-day national motorway A13 is made up of an addition to the original San Bernardino route built in the second half of the 20th century. A showpiece for the technical development of this time is the tunnel, opened in 1967. The broad, long road shapes itself to the terrain. In addition there are two arched bridges, which were designed by the famous Swiss structural engineer, Christian Menn from Chur. Menn designed more bridges throughout the Canton, for example, the Sunniberg Bridge near Klosters. The importance of this bridge is only superceeded by the Salginatobel Bridge, designed by the pioneer engineer, Robert Maillart, the most important singular monument of engineering art in Prattigau.
Bridge building has been combined with contemporary architecture into one concept. These both play an important role in the building of the train lines and the viaducts of the Rhaetian Railway. (Leza Dosch)
Lit.: Jürg Simonett: Verkehr, Gewerbe und Industrie, in: Handbuch der Bündner Geschichte, Band 3, 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, Chur 2000, S. 61–88 (61–73); Leza Dosch: Kunst und Landschaft in Graubünden. Bilder und Bauten seit 1780, Zürich 2001, S. 69–79.
Inns of today are derived historically from the taverns, hostels and hospices of the Middle Ages. The building function achieved a new architectural quality after 1860 with the emergence of tourism. The spa hotels of Le Prese, Tarasp Baths and St. Moritz Baths were the predecessors of the mighty hotel buildings of 'la belle époque' especially in the Engadine, in Davos and in Flims. The formerly widespread sanatoria in Davos and Arosa that served as places for high-altitude medical treatment make up a class of their own.
The late-gothic tap-room of the capitular at the court of the bishop of Chur is considered to be the oldest inn of Graubünden. Today the restaurant with the vaulted beam ceiling from the year 1522 is called Restaurant Hofkellerei*. At the time it was renovated in the early 20th century there was a general rediscovery of the charm of old Grisonian inns: parlours in the Drei Konige, Stern and Rebleuten Hotels in Chur, Stiva Grischun in Disentis/Mustér, Casa Fausta Capaul in Breil/Brigels, Crusch Alva in Zuoz, Chesa Veglia in St. Moritz. The mid-20th century was noted for the spread of cafes and tea rooms in tourist and urban areas. Newer gastronomic phenomena are trends to pizzerias, bars, discos and fast food restaurants; pubs designed by specific artists (Giger-Bar in Chur) are exceptional appearances.
*The English translation of the names of the restaurants: Restaurant Hofkellerei: Court Wine Cellars Restaurant; Drei Konige: Three Kings; Stern: Star; Rebleuten: Vintners; Stiva Grischun: Grison Parlour; Casa Fausta Capaul: House Fausta Capaul; Crusch Alva: White Cross; Chesa Veglia: Old House.
The term spa derives primarily from a bathing treatment at a health resort as it has been known in St. Moritz since early times. Graubünden has known and still knows a whole range of health resorts and mineral springs for drinking the waters. Architecturally significant buildings emerged in St. Moritz, Bad Tarasp, Passugg and in the Sinestra Valley in the Lower Engadine. The health resorts in Bad Tarasp and St. Moritz, built by the specialist Felix Wilhelm Kubly of St. Gallen in the 19th century, became prototypes for the first grand hotels in Graubünden. The former was constructed in the remote valley basin across from the spring tapping (catchwork) in Scuol-Nairs while the latter studded the plain of the Inn with a grand gesture and as a result became the departing point for building development expansion. The spa hotel in Le Prese offered bathing treatments with sulphur water. The elegant classic architecture and the idyllic location with a park and small harbour on the Lake of Poschiavo are impressive. In present times the thermal baths of Peter Zumthor in Vals have become internationally reknown for its architecture.
One can trace stylish and typological developments in the hotel palaces of the Upper Egadine. If the Bernina in Samedan still possesses the brittle charm of late classicism, then the cupola of the Palace in Maloja and the erstwhile grand hotels in St. Moritz express the pathos of ’la belle époque’. At the Kronenhof in Pontresina, whose three-wing construction adds a stately accent to the village composition, the dome is a nobel attribute still today. Constructions like the Palace in St. Moritz, the Waldhaus in Sils and the Castell in Zuoz follow the ideals of castle romanticism. La Margna, the Suvretta House and the Carlton in St. Moritz became famous representatives of the homeland style. For hotels of the classical modern and for sanatoriums a matter-of-fact treatment appeared to be appropriate. A small group of hotels committed to the aesthetic of a geometric reduction appeared in Arosa around 1930: Post, Isla, the center section of the Hotel Meran, Hohenfels, House Lamm. Pulmonary sanatoriums dominated Davos into the mid-20th century. Their flat roofs and large balconies for reclining chairs lent the area an urban character. (Leza Dosch)
Isabelle Rucki: Das Hotel in den Alpen. Die Geschichte der Oberengadiner Hotelarchitektur von 1860 bis 1914, Institut für Geschichte und Theorie der Architektur, ETH Zürich, Zürich 1989. – Roland Flückiger-Seiler: Hotelpaläste zwischen Traum und Wirklichkeit. Schweizer Tourismus und Hotelbau 1830–1920, Baden 2003.
The development of cities, villages and hamlets in Graubünden has been a century-long process. A certain planning strategy can be seen in the settlement projects of the immigrating Walser in the 13th and 14th century. Fire and natural catastrophes in the 19th century called for a systematic reconstruction and/or new construction of villages and parts of villages. In Chur in the 20th century the neighbourhoods of the lower and upper Quader at the gates to the old city and the Lacuna neighbourhoods in the Rhine meadows were developed on a partly-private and private basis.
Many forms of settlements in Graubünden, particularly farms and hamlets, can be traced back to the major occupation and settlement of land during the Middle Ages (12th and 13th centuries). At that time the forests were levelled on a large-scale basis in the side valleys and at high altitudes. This was the time of flourishing transit traffic, the beginning of mining and of castle-building, the colonisation by the Premonstratenser monks and the beginning of the immigration of the Walser people. Villages and the few existing cities were continually being expanded. Battles and unintentional fires were the main causes of destruction up until the 17th century. The houses of the Lower Engadine, destroyed in the Schwaben War in 1499 and the houses and barns in Prättigau and the Lower Engadine, which were destroyed by Austrian soldiers setting fire to them during the Thirty-Years War (1618-1648) were mostly re-constructed within the remains of the original structures. The notorious fires that destroyed whole villages in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, gave cause for discussion about re-construction. Following the example of the canton of Glarus, the cantonal administration favoured an orthogonal arrangement of the new houses with consideration given to the exigencies of fire control, hygiene and traffic control. Lavin followed these standards whereas Zernez chose to build the new houses on the foundations of the destroyed houses for economic reasons. Settlements of the 19th century that were noticeably planned include, next to Lavin, new-Felsberg, Thusis and Seewis in Prättigau. Taking into consideration aspects of local heritage protection, Sent and Susch later decided on a picturesque, harmonious presentation of style.
The only somewhat sizable city in Graubünden is Chur. Growth rings are apparent here which show the expansion of the town outside of the walls of the old city. Along the Graben Street, elegant private and public buildings have been standing side by side since the middle and late 19th century. In the early 20th century, the architects Otto Schäfer and Martin Risch were able to influence building in Chur in a grandiose style. Following along the axis of the upper Quader with the Quader Square, the concept followed a well-organised plan to the lower Quader and the Otto Square and on into the settlement 'Stampagarten' to form a homogenous village-like effect. The Lacuna settlement built in the 1960s and 1970s by the architects Thomas and Thomas Domenig, is one of the biggest high-rise complexes in Switzerland. A certain sense of autonomy was created by including a schoolhouse and a Kindergarten, as well as shops, a bank, a restaurant and a post office. (Leza Dosch)
Lit.: Martin Bundi: Zur Besiedlungs- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte Graubündens im Mittelalter, Chur 1989 (2. Aufl.). – Leza Dosch: Kunst und Landschaft in Graubünden. Bilder und Bauten seit 1780, Zürich 2001.
The town squares of old villages in Graubünden are most often simple in appearance, ameliorations of widened roadways or undeveloped properties, which have been identified by the construction of a well/ fountain. One is more likely to come across deliberately constructed ornate plazas in urban or park settings and touristic areas. Park-like cemeteries and private gardens are significant. House and garden go hand in hand to create an entity in stately properties of the baroque period.
Well-known old town squares can be found in Zuoz in the Upper Engadine and Valendas in the Surselva. The first of the two is characterized by its spaciousness, the rising ground and the Planta houses. The latter is situated on a curve in the road and has a backdrop-like arrangement towards the Türelihus with the largest wooden fountain in Europe. In both cases the fountains are central decorative elements. In a more urban context one must emphasize the bishop’s courtyard in Chur with the capitular mansions that surround it, the city square of Maienfeld with the baroque Sprecher House and the stately Piazza in Borgo in Poschiavo. One particular group is made up of sites with political relevance: the maple tree next to the St. Anna Chapel in Trun, which was the founding place of the Grauen Bund (Grey League), or the place of the legendary unification of the Drei Bünde (Three Leagues) in Vazerol (Brienz/Brinzauls). The rural community meeting of the cadi (Romanisch: cumin, English: judge) took place on the field directly below the cloister. The rural community meeting - which is still in existence in Schanfigg (called Bsatzig) in St. Peter - used to be held on the ’Quadera’, a field next to the church. The community meeting place of Ilanz, located at the entrance to the old city, is denoted for its 19th century buildings.
The Regierungsplatz (government/administrative plaza) in the centre of the old city of Chur exists thanks to the neglect to rebuild the houses that were burnt down in the fire of 1829. After the village fires of 1869 and 1872, Lavin and Zernez received generous plazas which were lined with noble houses (Plazza gronda, and Plaz respectively). The urbanistic backbone of Davos is the long drawn-out promenade; this made centralised squares unnecessary. The situation in Scuol is similar to Davos because of its ’Stradun’. In contrast, within the concentrically laid-out city of Chur, the streets bundle repeatedly to generate room for squares or plazas. The central square should actually have been the Postplatz at the entrance to the old city. It has lost its sense of generous space almost completely due to motorized traffic. The reconstructed Bahnhofplatz (Railway Station Square) will mainly be used as a station for the Arosa train and the city bus. The Theatre Square, rebuilt in 2006, represents an attempt to breathe new life into the square, which has been dedicated to the city’s pedestrians.
A remarkable culture for an alpine canton unfolded in the laying out of baroque gardens as seen in the Bergell, the Domleschg, in Chur and in the Domain of Graubünden Lords (Bündner Herrschaft approximately) around Maienfeld. In these regions, park facilities are usually connected with cemeteries with sumptuous stands of trees. In the context of tourism, that which was perhaps originally designated as a park gained a new meaning as a hotel or health resort park. The Quader Square in Chur – an expansive tree-lined field – could also be categorised as a park facility. (Leza Dosch)
Lit.: Brigitt Sigel, Catherine Waeber und Katharina Medici-Mall (Hg.): Nutzen und Zierde. Fünfzig historische Gärten in der Schweiz, Zürich 2006.
The railway route from Landquart to Davos that was opened in 1890 was the starting point for one of the most extensive narrow-gauge railway nets in the world. It provides access to many of the main valleys of Graubünden. The spectacular route management, viaducts and helical tunnels of the Albula Route in conjunction with the Bernina Route make a transalpine connection possible. The various train station buildings, which were built in the 1910s and 1920s, stand out in the history of architecture for their regional homeland style.
The Albula Route was built between Thusis and St. Moritz from 1898 to 1904. The legendary loops and helical tunnels in the section between Bergün/Bravuogn and Preda serve as an artificial lengthening of the route to make it possible to limit the grade to 35-tenths of a percent. Switzerland built the very first natural stone bridges of any railway route. In the opinion of the magazine ’Heimatschutz’ at that time, line management and natural stone bridges did not mar the landscape, but rather enlivened and enriched it. The decision to choose natural stone was reasoned to be not only aesthetic, but also practical. The material was available on location. The large, massive construction was able to support transportation loads without a problem. The most famous bridge constructions of the Albula Railway are the wide-spanned Soliser Viaduct (span 42 m, height 85 m) and the curved Landwasser Viaduct by Filisur (span six times 20 m, height 65 m) with its elegant pylons, which gradually reduce become more slender as they rise. The 5,8 km Albula Tunnel lies at the zenith of the stretch between Preda and Spinas. The portals show natural stone masonry with a roughly hewn framing in the Renaissance tradition. The Bernina Railway between St. Moritz and Tirano in Italy was opened in 1910. Its most memorable structure is the circular viaduct of Brusio. It also serves to lengthen the line.
Structures planned by engineers should be distinguished from the building constructions designed by carpenters, master builders and architects. The first stretches of the Rhaetian Railway were of simple construction. The wooden railway stations were inexpensive to build in areas where there was lumber. They suited the chalet boom of the time and were borrowed from the log construction style of the local farmers. Apart from Spinas the stations of the Albula Route in the Engadine were constructed in a late-classical solid building style. Distinctive examples of the homeland style were completed shortly before the First World War between Ilanz and Disentis, Bever and Scuol as well as between Chur and Arosa. In the 1920s Nicolas Hartmann was inspired by the mountain landscape with its high alpine huts to create an architectural design using stone: Alp Grüm, Bernina Hospiz on the Bernina Route. In contrast urban Italianate embossed the reception hall of the train station in Tirano (1927), with forms of the Liberty and Art Deco Styles. (Leza Dosch)
Lit.: Luzi [Leza] Dosch: Die Bauten der Rhätischen Bahn. Geschichte einer Architektur von 1889 bis 1949, Chur 1984. – Leza Dosch: Kunst und Landschaft in Graubünden. Bilder und Bauten seit 1780, Zürich 2001, S. 182–195.
The rediscovery of sgraffito and the Engadine-style house in the late 19th century announced a newly awakened interest in local and regional architecture. The Bündner Heimatschütz, section of the Swiss Heritage Society, was created in 1905. It propagated a homeland style of construction and rallied influential architects as its supporters. A more liberal use of typical examples from the surroundings is observed in the regionalism of the post-war era.
The term 'regionalism' centres round the main issue of what defines specific cultural workings within a geographically defined area. Architectural regionalism is consciously interested in how a society builds within a specific region. This stands in contrast to the architectural regionalism of earlier times, where a choice of building style was hardly possible. The sparse economy required the continuance of well-established techniques and the use of local materials. Practicality was the highest priority. Due to this, the cultural claim for innovation was lacking. Having no compulsion to have to rise above the local traditions and habits, older villages and cities remained single-styled, which in retrospect is generally highly valued for the cohesive picture they create.
According to the idea of the historicism of the 19th century, after which builders used academic art history for their draughts, and older styles had been used again and again, a new source of inspiration was sought for and found in a vernacular, un-spoiled use of the local farmland style. The first station along this path was the use of the wooden house found in the Bernese Highlands and thereafter entitled the Swiss chalet. Elements out of Graubünden were already being used in the architecture of the canton as early as the late 19th century. The Bündner Heimatschutz (section of the Swiss Heritage Society) argued primarily regionally rather than nationally. Nicolaus Hartmann, working in St Moritz, included among his models older houses of the Engadine Valley. These became the epitome of not only Engadine-style building but of Grisonian building generally. Through borrowing construction methods found in old medieval cities and baroque lordly mansions, the architectural firm of Otto Schäfer and Martin Risch in Chur put more emphasis on a local and traditional style than on the style of any specific region. Regionalism experienced a second important phase in the post-war era when architects such as Iachen Ulrich Könz, Bruno Giacometti and Rudolf Olgiati, each in a different way, allowed regional construction methods to influence their work. Single examples also stem from Pierre Zoelly and Robert Obrist.
In contemporary architecture, the movement is toward the more comprehendible, concrete location for its prosaic dignity rather than towards regionalism, which is more difficult to grasp and define. In this way space has been created for a more individual approach. One mark of an architecture which consciously and openly reacts to the building location, is the Chapel Sogn Benedetg by Peter Zumthor above Sumvitg. (Leza Dosch)
Lit.: Friedrich Achleitner: Region, ein Konstrukt? Regionalismus, eine Pleite? Basel/Boston/Berlin 1997. – Leza Dosch: Heimatstil und Regionalismus. Zur Diskussion über zwei architekturgeschichtliche Begriffe, in: Bündner Monatsblatt, 2005, Nr. 5, S. 491–520.
The first large power plant that was built in Graubünden is in Campocologno, the Power Plants of Brusio AG (Public Limited Company), which started operation in 1907. The exposed pressure lines of Campocologno, as well as those of the control centre of the Power Plants of Graubünden (1922), made a massive impact on the shape of the landscape. Early attempts to cover dams with quarry stone or to make earthen dams to fit into the surroundings were overridden in the fifties and sixties by the concept of unconcealed concrete walls, which unfolded as bold engineering constructions within their own aesthetic right.
Apart from road and railway construction, hydroelectric power plants represent the largest construction enterprises in the Alpine countries. Accordingly at any one time particular projects have proven to be controversial. Financial considerations must be weighed against agricultural and environmental protection concerns. Economy and ecology are pitted against each other almost irreconcilably. The Power Plants of Brusio PLC - which today is Rätia Energie – was known at the time of its construction as the most eminent hydroelectric facility on the European continent. The large water reservoir was a natural lake, the Lake of Poschiavo. Six open pressure pipelines led from the surge tanks on the Monte Scala to the control centre in Campocologno. The pipes and the operational headquarters were set into the countryside as functional buildings with no consideration for their aesthetic effect on the landscape. In 1927 the same company placed the iron towers of their overhead circuit with the same matter-of-fact reasoning. Only a few years later the high lattice towers of the overhead circuit came under general opposition by environmental protection groups.
The Albula Plant is another early facility. It is the electrical facility for the city of Zurich. The Albula River was dammed by a weir. ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich) Professor Gustav Gull was entrusted with the architectural design of the control centre in Sils in the Domleschg (1907-1910). Nicolaus Hartmann advanced to the authoritative position as head architect of power plants in Graubünden during the period between the two World Wars. He received the contracts for almost all of the structural engineering work for the AG Bündner Kraftwerke in Prättigau (Power Plants of the Grisons PLC) – also known today as Rätia Energie. In 1927 he was able to build the control centres Palü and Cavaglia for the Power Plants of Brusio PLC near the Bernina Railway.
With the advent of the classical modern in the 1920s Swiss professional circles were of the over-simplified opinion that a good building fit into any landscape. For this reason discussion was non-existent as to what extent the artistic qualities of a construction might directly make use of the surrounding landscape. Big dams and reservoirs were generated in the 1950s and 1960s in Zervreila in Valsertal (the Vals Valley), on the Alp Albigna in the Bergell, in Nalps and Curnera in Tujetsch, in Santa Maria on the Lukmanier as well as in the Valley of Lei and in the Valley of Livigno which belongs almost entirely to Italy. Doubtlessly the most spectacular construction is the immense wall of Albigna, which appears as a heavy concrete wedge between the cliffs high above the valley. (Leza Dosch)
Lit.: Conradin Clavuot und Jürg Ragettli: Die Kraftwerkbauten im Kanton Graubünden, Chur 1991. – Hansjürg Gredig und Walter Willi: Unter Strom. Wasserkraftwerke und Elektrifizierung in Graubünden 1879–2000, Chur 2006.
Various currents are included within the concepts of the Modern period. These are more or less closely connected to the Rationalism and Functionalism of the 1920s and 1930s. The so-called 'innovative construction' was avant-garde at that time. In the 1950s and 1960s, this idea of the use of simplified forms became generally accepted - often with notable success.
Rudolf Gaberel (1882-1963) was one of the formative architects in Graubünden of the classical Modern period during the time between the two World Wars. He lived in Davos and was able to realise his ideas widely. He made advancements on his idea of a flat roof, which was aerated from beneath and where rain and melt-off water would be centrally drained within the house. He propagated this as the ideal roof form for a high alpine climate. This system was already put into use in Davos as early as 1900 at the Schatzalp Sanatorium. The flat roof, which was aerated from beneath and the integrated, clear span balconies became landmarks in the village-picture of Davos. In an effort to produce functional, hygienic architecture, Gaberel was able, in a short time, to re-build or adapt a large number of existing buildings including the Town Hall. Davos became a modern alpine city. After 1961 even the town centre had to be built according to the flat roof regulations. Three of Gaberel's more important buildings, still standing in Davos are: the physician's homes of the High Altitude Clinic for the city of Basel, the Sanatorium for the cantons of Thurgau and Schaffhausen and a two-family house in the Tanzbühlstrasse 6. Further representatives of 'innovative construction' in Graubünden were, among others, the brothers Emil and Walther Sulser in Chur and the brothers Georg and Peter Brunold and Jakob Licht in Arosa.
The architecture of the post-war Modern period is not well known. Offshoots of this architecture reach well into the 1980s. The spread of the 'innovative construction' style by large planning companies and general contractors watered down the aesthetic and social ideals of the original. Yet there are still some works in Graubünden from this time period, which show a delicacy and elegance set against the touristy, rusticism, which is so often seen in many first and second homes of the area. Significant examples are: the former Bündner Lehrerseminar (presently the Kantonsschule Sand) by Andres Liesch, the Zinsli house by Paul Gredinger in Chur and the school house in Castaneda by Max Kasper. Taking into account more than just the rational tendencies towards the modern period, notice must be taken as well of the sculptural exposed concrete architecture seen in buildings such as the Konvikt of the Bündner Kantonsschule (Otto Glaus, Ruedi Lienhard and Sep Marti) and the Catholic Heiligkreuz Church by the architect and sculptor, Walter M. Förderer in Chur. Concrete architecture took on the aspect of a walk-through sculpture in various churches by Förderer throughout Switzerland and Germany. (Leza Dosch)
Lit.: Christof Kübler: Wider den hermetischen Zauber – Rationalistische Erneuerung alpiner Architektur um 1930. Rudolf Gaberel und Davos, Chur 1997.
Small constructions are something like the chamber music of architecture. In their case everything is reduced to the essential; often they appear to be models for bigger things. Such objects as wells, monuments, gazebos, garden houses, vineyard buildings and gate buildings set discreet accents.
Small architectural elements include fixtures in churches such as fonts, repositories for the sacraments and altars. Sacral and non-sacral furniture have also been created with architectural motives. A nice group of small, independent buildings are the baroque vineyard buildings, which are still standing on former or present-day vineyards in Chur (example: Calunaweg 8). These are two-storey, one-room buildings, in which the vintners, villagers and day labourers socialized. They were also apparently used as the quarters for the labourers. The somewhat larger and more irregular building (Torkel) had to accommodate the wine press (Trottbaum). The most famous garden house in Graubünden is the one created by the brothers Johannes Gaudenz and Christoffel Schmid von Grüneck in 1710. They had it erected at the gates of the city of Ilanz. It has cruciform ridges and braced gables and is again a one-roomed building.
Behind the house of Giovanni Segantini in Maloja is a wooden rotunda. Built as a model, it was to house the planned panorama of the Engadine Valley for the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900. The artist mainly used it as a library. Included under the heading of 'Pavilion' are the halls for taking the waters and sanatoriums in St Moritz, Tarasp and Passugg. There is also the late-classical cemetery hall in Roveredo. Under the heading of 'Sport Building' is the ice-skating rink and golf pavilion of the Kulm Hotel in St Moritz. Here one sees the varying styles of architecture of the early 20th century and a relief with sport emblems. A last category are the portals to a particular location exemplified in the arched gate to the Quader Square by Schäfer and Risch and that of Nicolaus Hartmann into the sanatorium garden in Davos.
Wells are the broadest category under the heading of small architectural elements. The old wells in rural areas were used for drinking and washing alone and are noted mostly for their protective wooden roofs (Borgonovo, Luven). In urban areas the wells are richly decorated with relief and freestanding sculptures. The heyday of this practice was during the 16th to the 18th centuries. The most important example is the Martins Well/Fountain in Chur (well base 1910, replaced by a copy). With the homeland style of the early 20th century, the sculptor, Wilhelm Schwerzmann advanced to the most distinguished well designer in the canton. Monuments were seldom erected in Graubünden due to its republican tendencies. Among the few examples, which are anything more than just a memorial plaque, are the Salis, the Vazerol and the Fontana Monuments in Chur as well as the monument honouring the freedom and religious fighters of the Prättigau valley around 1622 in Seewis. (Leza Dosch)
The categories referred to here give us only a small portion of the constructional and artistic whole. Special attention should also be given to sacred buildings of other eras, of school buildings, city halls, trade and industrial buildings as well as their furnishing with such amenities as panelling, wall paintings and sculptures.
Particular attention was given to the selection of the categories in order to offer a representative mixture of subjects. This should encourage a more thorough examination of the various eras to cover artistic tendencies, short biographies of the artists and construction genres. Accents have thus been applied to mark the difference between the cultural landscape of Graubünden and other architectural and artistic places more apparent. Titles like ’Carolingian’ or ’modern ’ show the incorporation into the general art history of Europe, while in fact ’Streets and Bridges’ and ’Power Plants’ indicate the specific mountain topography. Finally ’Waltensburg Master’, ’Hans Ardüser’, ’Engadine House’ and ’Rhaetian Railway’ are actually Grisons themes. The constructional identity of the canton will be thought about under the heading ’Regionalism’.
Important contributions to architectural and art history about objects that do not have their own headings can be found. The prehistoric stone rampart near Guarda depicts an Iron Age fortification structure. In Puschlav the archaic ’crott’ where perishable food was kept were constructed with false vaults. In Cama and Promontogno wine cellars (’grotti’, ’crotti’) ringed by chestnut trees were places of social gatherings. The Acla Serlas in the Chamura Valley is the grandest example of a high camp construction. Mills paved the way for industrial complexes of the 19th century. Ecclesiastical examples of houses with interesting special forms are depicted by hospices and cloisters, in Chur the canonical manors and bishop’s castle. The genre wall paintings include pictures of an up-side down world in the Hasenstube (Hare’s Parlour) of the Bärenloch (Bear’s Den) in Chur and the biblical scenes from the 1960s on the Casa Aperta in Fürstenaubruck. An excellent sculptural work of the early gothic can be found in the Holy-grave Group in the charnel house of St. John the Baptist in Domat/Ems.
One could also take a look at the development of the schoolhouses, the few historic counsel and guild houses as well as the Diaspora churches in tourist places. The Nietzsche House in Sils Maria, the Mili Weber House in St. Moritz and the Fortification Museum Crestawald in Sufers are special cases of objects which have been made into museums. The church hill of Schmitten with its baroque stations of the cross chapel and the Rosales House in Andeer are also unique. The iron melting oven hidden in that house supplied the Italian freedom movement of Giuseppe Mazzini with weapons. (Leza Dosch)