Sunday, January 02, 2005

Modernism in Old Switzerland

Here at Sphere we live in a Modern house and we like Modern domestic architecture. We also like Switzerland, particularly its old villages in the far east. Here's a Modern house in one of our favorite Swiss places. Next time we're there, we'll check out the context and see if it works.

Update: Soglio is a tiny village perched on a terrace above the Val Bregaglia that we visited twice, in 1987 and in 1989. To get there, you follow the valley of the Upper Engadine, the famous winter sport region, past St. Moritz, Sils Maria and Sils Biselgia – an area now scarred by highways that have muddied the air and robbed the valley of much of its beauty – and through Maloja.

In ’87 we were traveling on the cheap (if that’s possible in Switzerland) and so did not rent a car. We’d take the train or the post bus to a village, find a place to stay, and head out for long hikes in the mountains.

One of those places was Maloja, where in early June it was still late winter. The larches and beeches had yet to put out leaves, and as the snow melted, entire meadows glistened with moving water. We hiked along the Via Engiadina through tiny villages that served as summer residences for cowherds – Blaunca, for example, a cluster of 20 or so stone structures with shale roofs, 6,700 feet above sea level. A carving on one of the houses said it had been built in 1436 and renovated in 1963. Near there we encountered a flock of 10 steinbock – mountain goats – and watched them feed contentedly.

The next morning, we boarded a bus at Maloja and descended through the Maloja Pass, an incredible series of hairpin curves that dropped us from the late winter of the Engadine into the full spring of the Val Bregaglia, from 5,900 feet to 2,700. The larches sprouted leaves, the conifers changed to birch and beech and chestnut, the gardens became planted, the fields full of yellow and white and blue and violet. At Promontogno we hopped a connecting bus and rode another thousand feet up the hillside to Soglio.

There we found a hotel, had lunch in the garden of an old hotel called the Palazzo surrounded by trees, hedges, and flowers. Two giant sequoias rose from the rear of the garden and nearby a sign asked for money to keep them alive. After lunch we walked through the outlying meadows, a riot of beautifully-colored wildflowers — buttercups, cow parsnip, harebells, bluebells, three kinds of mints, daisies, bladder campions, trefoil, red clover, white clover. Then we strolled through the churchyard and stopped in across the road at a dairy, or lattaria, where we met a fellow who made goat cheese. Here's what we saw and learned, from the unpublished Andersen Diaries.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The palazzo where we had lunch is actually called Palazzo Salis. It "was built in 1630 by the Knight Baptista de Salis. In 1701 his descendants extended and embellished the Casa Battista to its present splendour. Thereafter they continuously added to the interiors with great flair.

When Napoleon separated the Veltlin and Chiavenna from the Grisons in 1797, much of the family property was confiscated and the income from services in foreign armies rapidly declined. Thus obliged to seek new professions, the family eventually left Soglio.

In 1876 the Palazzo, which is still owned by the family, became a hotel." From

Thanks for bringing back the memories; I can't wait to go back!


10:24 AM  

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