Navigation

Skiplink Navigation

Main Features

#swisshistorypics Old houses tell Switzerland's story

Historically, rural Swiss dwellings displayed a diversity of styles, depending on the local geography and building materials available. A look at the archives.

Despite its relatively small area of just over 41,000 square kilometres (15,444 square miles), Switzerland’s rural building styles are as diverse as the many regional dialects of its four national languages.

The country's mountainous terrain is a kind of geographical crossroads in Europe, with regions north of the Alps building mostly with timber, and those in the south using mainly stone. In central Switzerland, transitional regions use a mix of both materials.

So, you might even be able to tell what region you’re in by taking a quick look at old buildings. For example, while Ticino dwellings are predominantly built from unaltered local stone, the houses in Vaud are a mixture of timber and stone. Meanwhile, an 18th century farmhouse in Aargau would be identifiable by its low walls and straw-thatched roof, while a similar residence in the Emmental region of canton Bern would be larger, with an attached stable, built of timber. 

Wood isn’t just wood! There are many complex ways to build houses. Log homes are not the same as timber-built dwellings, for example. Log construction uses the horizontal trunks of coniferous trees. In timber construction, the wood is positioned vertically.

Graphic drawing of a map of Switzerland and building materials.
(swissinfo.ch)

1. Stone (Walls with or without plastering)
2. Stone/Timber (kitchen; bricked, living-room; timber)
2a. Stone/Log (Like 2. but block building with the parlour surrounded by mural-mantle)
2b. Stone/Timber (only single part walled with timber)
3. Log, horizontal (log cabin)
4. Log with timber, horizontal (timber with logs between the frames)
5. Timber, vertical (older framework build or younger partly timbered build)

In our series #swisshistorypicsexternal link external linkwe travel back in time to look at photographs which document past life and culture in Switzerland.

end of infobox