The birthplace of Le Corbusier—one of the world’s most famous architects—Switzerland is home to Pritzker Prize winners, as well as a new generation of acclaimed architects whose projects offer inspiration around the world.
If you’re a fan of Le Corbusier’s sweeping concrete volumes or Peter Zumthor’s work with the material then you’ll love becoming acquainted with a new coterie of up-and-coming Swiss architects, whose work on public and residential projects has one thing in common: enhancing their natural surroundings in striking ways.
1. Atelier Peter Zumthor
Born in Basel, Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor needs little introduction. From his renowned Therme baths in Vals, Switzerland, to his Steilneset Memorial in Vardø, Norway, Zumthor’s calm, sensorial spaces are grounded in materials, place, and craftsmanship. When the Pritzker Prize jury selected Zumthor as the 2009 Laureate, they said: “His buildings have a commanding presence, yet they prove the power of judicious intervention, showing us again and again that modesty in approach and boldness in overall result are not mutually exclusive. His buildings masterfully assert their presence, engaging many of our senses, not just our sight but also our sense of touch, hearing, and smell.”
Basing his studio in a remote village in eastern Switzerland since 1979, Zumthor’s reputation for keeping to himself commands almost as much attention as his buildings. Projects in the works include extensions to Fondation Beyeler in Basel and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)—his first major US project. His Secular Retreat in Devon in the UK won a 2019 RIBA National Award and was longlisted for House of the Year.
2. Inches Geleta Architetti
A graduate of the Academy of Architecture in Mendrisio, near the Swiss–Italian border, architect Matteo Inches was born in northern Italy, but raised in Switzerland. Nastasja Inches-Geleta, who completed her studies in interior architecture at SUPSI (University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland), was born in Germany but raised in Australia. Together, the young duo makes up the award-winning Swiss firm Inches Geleta.
“The basic idea behind each of our works always stems from the interpretation of a way of living and experiencing space in a given context,” they say. “Both physically and through social interaction.” Working in local materials that are relevant to the location of each project, the Locarno-based studio counts among its work school extensions, the MeCrì Museum in Minusio, an 11-acre (45,000 sq m) urban development project (currently in the planning phase), and a number of striking residential projects. Both the Infinity and Palazzo Pioda housing projects see structure become façade, while the single-family Pallone and Weidmann homes blend into their surroundings yet also take advantage of their views.
3. Herzog & de Meuron
When Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron were awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2001, they were the first Swiss architects to win the accolade. The jury highlighted their “ingenuity and imagination” and “capacity to astonish.” One of the world’s most acclaimed—and prolific—architectural practices, Herzog & de Meuron was established in Basel in 1978.
Garnering attention early on for several housing projects, the firm’s breakthrough project was the Ricola Storage Building in Laufen, Switzerland, completed in 1987. Today, some of Herzog & de Meuron’s most well-known works include: 1111 Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, Florida; the VitraHaus on the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany; and the Tate Modern art gallery in London.
4. Mario Botta Architetti
Internationally acclaimed Swiss architect Mario Botta has made his mark on the world with his monumental museums, homes, and sacred spaces. From Tel Aviv to Ticino, his sculptural works juxtapose solids and voids, light and stone, geometries and stripes. Born in Mendrisio, Ticino, where his studio has been based since 2011, Botta worked with Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn in Venice, and earned his degree under the directorship of Carlo Scarpa at the city’s University Institute of Architecture.
A long list of notable works includes Fiore di Pietra (Stone Flower), an octagonal restaurant clad in gray natural stone set atop Switzerland’s Monte Generoso, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Bechtler Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina. But it’s Botta’s churches, synagogues, and other religious spaces, including the Church of San Giovanni Battista in Mogno, Switzerland, or the Santa Maria degli Angelichapel on Monte Tamaro, that are where he is “at his best,” says his daughter Giuditta Botta in Mario Botta, The Space Beyond, a new documentary that offers a deep dive into his work.
5. Daluz González Architekten
This young Zurich-based firm has been making a mark with its striking single-family residences. Led by Rubén Daluz and Juan González, the studio was honored with its first Best Architects Award in 2017 for Casa Forest, a home for a family of five nature lovers that takes the shape of a crystalline sculpture clad in dark ceramic panels and topped with an embedded roof terrace.
Both born in Spain, Daluz and González founded the firm in 2009. The two met during their studies in Switzerland, at Zurich’s University of Applied Sciences. Working in concrete, glass, wood, metal, and stone (“In short, real and natural materials,” says Daluz), Daluz González counts among its recent projects Casa Mi, a dramatic three-story villa in crisp, white rectangular forms perched on a hillside above Lake Zurich.
6. Le Corbusier
Although he called Paris home from 1917, Le Corbusier, born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret in 1887, hailed from La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Deemed an outstanding contribution to the Modern movement, a collection of his work was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016. “The architectural work of Le Corbusier revolutionized architecture by demonstrating, in an exceptional and pioneering manner, the invention of a new architectural language,” UNESCO said.
Among the 17 sites across seven countries that form the UNESCO-listed body of work are Villa Savoye, in the suburbs of Paris, a seminal manifestation of his “five points of a new architecture”; Unité d’Habitation, Marseille, the first in a series of mass housing projects and said to be the world’s most influential example of Brutalism; and Immeuble Molitor, the first apartment building in the world with a fully glazed façade and Le Corbusier’s home for more than 30 years until his death in 1965.
(via Luxury Defined)