Modern Swiss Architecture in Five Parts
Earlier this summer, I found, intact, a five-part portfolio about modernist Swiss architecture. Published between 1942 and 1947, it covered the period from the late 1920's to the mid-1940's. I was immediately drawn to the set by the clean graphic design--by the font, layout, and color way. I was not surprised to see that Max Bill was one of the editors. As an architect, furniture and graphic designer, writer, editor, and artist, Bill was one of the true giants of 20th century design.
"Moderne Schweizer Architektur"--the primary text is in German, although there is an English translation--tracks the uninterrupted path of modernist building in Switzerland through a period when such building in the rest of Europe was either halted or destroyed. Still, while there are doubtless national or regional idiosyncrasies, Swiss modernism is depicted as part of broader modernist practices, especially involving Bauhaus ideas. Projects illustrated include houses, apartment buildings, bridges, stadiums, churches, stations, factories, and offices. Each project includes multiple images, along with plans and descriptions. The architects in the survey include Max Bill, Robert Winkler, Robert Maillart, Alfred Roth, Alfred Altherr, and Hermann Bauer.
I've selected five projects to show here:
• Housing for Single Women, Basel (1929). Architect: Artaria & Schmidt. Reminiscent of Bauhaus Dessau with the alternating rows of porches. The interiors shown are predictably spartan.
• St. Johanneskirche, Basel (1936). Architects: Karl Egender and E.F. Burckhardt. I like the bell tower. Though the building is essentially a rectangular box, there is enough height in the church proper for a balcony.
• Festival Hall at the Swiss National Exhibition, Zurich. (1938). Architect: Rudolf Dick. The steel arches form a polygonic parabola covered in tentcloth.
• Bridge over the river Brenno, Tessin (1938). Architect: W. Krusi. Though Robert Maillart is Switzerland's most famous bridge designer, I favor this bridge over the examples of Maillart's work in the portfolio. Due to the "wild flow" of the river, the bridge was built without intermediary supports.
• Strandbad (Cabana) on a lake, Mellen (1936). Architect: W.M. Burgin. The low strung structure housing the baths and the cabanas is okay, but I really like the photograph.