The mountainous east of Switzerland is also a hot spot for architecture. From Zumthor to Olgiati, I am about to find out that Grisons architecture features some amazing landmark buildings.
It is no secret that I am interested in Swiss architecture. Maybe you have read my features on Lake Geneva architecture or my favorite buildings in Zürich. Most recently, I took my family on a long weekend spree to Vals and Flims where we explored some of the most fascinating architecture. In particular, we looked at the landmark buildings by architects Peter Zumthor and Rudolf and Valerio Olgiati.
Architecture in the town of Flims
Located less than a one-hour drive from Vals, we get to Flims by way of a windy road. Flims has a population of almost 3000 and was traditionally a winter home for dairymen. Many of the houses still show the traditional structure with barns on the ground level and the living area on the upper level.
In 1877, Waldhaus Flims was opened as the first grand hotel. Then in 1940, the first private holiday homes were built and today more than half of all apartments and homes serve recreational purposes. Flims, now part of the Weisse Arena, is well-known for winter sports, regularly hosting international skiing and snowboarding competitions.
Casa Radulff by Rudolf Olgiati
A famous architect of the area is Rudolf Olgiati who lived in Flims from 1910 to 1995. He studied at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich and graduated in 1934. He had first worked as an architect in Zürich before transitioning to Flims in 1944.
Olgiati mainly built family homes in Grisons. In Flims Waldhaus, there is actually an area sometimes called the "Olgiati district" due to the numerous houses he designed and built there. Casa Las Caglias, an apartment building completed in 1960, was one of the first buildings at this location.
In 1972, it was extended by the Casa Radulff with which it forms a single complex today. The house is built on top of a rock which is integrated into the swimming pool area in the basement. The light and mood remind me a lot of Cesar Manrique's buildings on the Canary Islands.
The restaurant of the same name is separated from the swimming pool only by a glass door which creates a very interesting and intimate dining atmosphere. I should also mention that Restaurant Las Caglias serves excellent food! Not to miss: Capuns, a traditional Graubünden dish.
Rudolf Olgiati's son, Valerio Olgiati, followed in the footsteps of his father and now also works as an architect out of Flims. His current office, replacing an old barn, was completed in 2009 and the wooden building is painted completely black.
A short walk from there is the Gelbe Haus (Yellow House) and its history is related to both Rudolf and Valerio Olgiati. Shortly before his death in 1995, Rudolf Olgiati donated part of his cultural goods collection to the municipality of Flims under the condition that the yellow house in the middle of the village be renovated to his taste.
In particular, it was supposed to be painted "from top to bottom in white."
In 1997, Valerio Olgiati was appointed for the renovation and he completely transformed the building. All interior walls were removed in order to create large exhibition spaces, and the external plaster work was removed up to the natural stone walls.
The building, which was previously painted yellow (hence its name), was then painted white inside out, including the brand new slab-stone roof. These days, Gelbes Haus is used for exhibitions such as "Welcome on board" about 40 years of snowboard culture in Switzerland.
I was really surprised by the position of the main pillar on the top floor. The fact that it is not centered under the roof really draws my attention to it and creates almost an abstract tree sculpture. After these discoveries, I cannot wait for this summer to explore the works of two other Graubünden architects...
My recommended places to see when you visit Flims:
- Restaurant Las Caglias in Flims Waldhaus
- Das Gelbe Haus Flims in Flims Dorf