May 15 2014

Static Exteriors & Historical Preservation in Wengen, Switzerland

Just like energy, space is not created. It is something that already exists but can be transformed. As architects, it is our job to create a sense of place from an existing environment. Nowhere is this more evident than in Wengen, Switzerland, where designers must work with the existing housing stock due to the building ban; the result is new living spaces within old places. New homes are carved from old structures where an architect’s main work lies in internal transformation.

Traditional Exiteriors of Wengen's Chalets, Wengen, Switzerland

Wengen is a traditional Swiss village among a rustic pristine landscape. Due to the building ban, everything – at least from the exterior – remains historical. Upon entering these old homes, the threshold brings you back to modernity with newly updated interiors that accommodate present day needs. The spatial organization has also changed since the chalets were originally built. Traditionally a Swiss home was built for two families, split right down the middle providing two mirrored units. Nowadays the older homes have been transformed to divide horizontally, allowing each level to provide a new, single unit open-plan layout. These aged structures have been rotated within their frames to better suit modern ideas of living.

Because of the building ban on second homes in Wengen, architects are left to work with existing structures, chopping them up and redesigning interiors. They must get creative with old spaces to make the most out of the predefined areas and configurations. Renovations can be more sustainable to the environment as they reuse existing materials and space, instead of discarding the old and building new. It also preserves the natural resources and scenery. Efficient design, paired with the latest innovations, can save energy with the shared semi-detached style of housing.

Modern Interior of Traditional Chalets, Wengen, Switzerland

Opposite to the interiors of these old homes, which are always changing, the exterior only varies with nature. Exterior changes occur exclusively with the changing season - since the built environment is static. Instead of designing from the inside out, new designs never reach the outside and remain private. This hides much of people’s wealth and keeps a traditional feeling which is rare for a ski resort. This creates a more humble environment, leaving interiors as the only space for modernity. The use of these old places to create new living spaces is up to the architect.

What other situations might bring similar internal spatial transformations?

Credits: Images by Tara Whelan and Clare Regez. Data linked to sources.

Tara Whelan

Tara Whelan has recently graduated from a Master's in International Cooperation and Sustainable Emergency Architecture from the International University of Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain and is pursuing a career in humanitarian and social architecture. She is originally from Southern Ontario, where she completed her architectural degree in Toronto and has since gained experience across Canada and internationally, working on sustainable and community-driven projects. Her passion in design is inspired by nature as she promotes natural building and hopes to implement its principles in post crisis reconstruction schemes. An avid reader, traveler and blogger, she is excited to learn about and share architectural issues that affect local communities from wherever she happens to be.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, May 15th, 2014 at 9:18 am and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Environment, Environmental Design, History/Preservation, Housing, Land Use, Tara Whelan, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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