April 17 2014

Using What You’ve Got: Recycled Building Materials of Wengen, Switzerland

In a ski town like Wengen, Switzerland, where there are enough skis to build everyone a seat, you don’t see much sports equipment being recycled and repurposed for furniture and building features. We have all seen the adirondack chairs built from skis, but where does this material choice come from? Does recycling local materials stem from necessity and the convenience of having extra equipment laying around, or is it a novelty, a wacky way to show off the pastimes of the region?

As with most mountainous regions, the traditional building material has always been timber, and in Wengen it is used to the max. Throughout the town there are half-sawed logs for benches and fountains, not always finely finished but quite functional. Traditional homes are wood construction, where chalets are clad in wood siding, wood shingles, perimetered with wood fences and decorated with wooden carvings. Although these are all very intricate and appealing, where is the evidence that this is a ski town?

A typical wood chalet in Wengen, Switzerland.

In other resorts like ones in Vermont, you often see furniture and knick knacks made from used skis, everything from shelving and fences to benches and shotskis. I expected Wengen to be the same, sports equipment being used for everything and anything, but maybe upcycling is too much effort for an undesired taste. Also, considering that much of the housing almost predates the sport that began in the 1920’s, the buildings and their materials have remained more traditional.

Skis reused in a bar in Wengen, Switzerland.

However, there are a few uncommon materials being used in Wengen everyday for different aesthetics. Here are a couple different styles found that use local materials:

  • Using skis for a more subtle expression of winter sports. They are used in one establishment as a ceiling element to define the bar, but the skis are barely noticeable after being set up neatly and similarly coloured;

  • Other places opt for a rougher style, using skis and winter sport accessories as decoration and uncut logs and branches for non-structural features. This creates a more outdoorsy look that even displays wild animals next to the bark covered stools.

Outdoor style using wood and animals near Wengen Switzerland

So if you look hard enough, some sports elements do exist, but not to the degree that seems possible from the influx of new equipment each year. Most old equipment is kept for rentals or discarded.

Does using these alternative materials bring an extra charm and a sense of place to the environment or do you think it’s getting a little tacky?

Credits: Images by Tara Whelan. 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, April 17th, 2014 at 5:19 am and is filed under Architecture, Environment, Environmental Design, Housing, Tara Whelan. 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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