Authenticity What’s more Swiss than a chalet?

The classic Swiss chalet may have foreign roots - just like the cuckoo clock

(Keystone)

That icon of ultimate Swissness – the wooden chalet with railed balconies and ornamental carvings – actually was an import conceived by foreign architects, a Swiss researcher found.

The “Swiss style” chalet conjures up the simple life of mountain people set amid a postcard backdrop of cows, cheese and watches. Yet a doctoral student, Daniel Stockhammer, concludes that foreign architects, mainly Germans, first developed the traditional Swiss woodwork cottage of the 19th century.

“The emergence of a Swiss style of woodwork was accompanied by a distinct turning point in the country’s engagement with national architecture, as architects who had received a polytechnic education began to mine generations of traditional woodwork knowledge for their academic research,” Stockhammer wroteexternal link. "The Swiss style existed abroad before being known here.”

The style was meant to appeal to alpine travelers, Stockhammer argued in his thesis at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ). It was presented in the Horizons magazine of the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Swiss Academy of Sciences.

It wouldn’t be the first time the Swiss got credit for a German invention.

Some tourists still consider the ultimate Swiss souvenir to be a cuckoo clock, and there are shops that do not want these tourists to go away disappointed – or empty-handed.

But it may come as a surprise to some of them that Switzerland is not in fact the birthplace of the cuckoo clock. That honour goes to the Black Forest region of southern Germany.

swissinfo.ch with agencies

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