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Architectural honour Swiss win top prize at Venice Biennale

For the first time, the Swiss Pavilion has won the top prize at the Venice Architecture Biennale - the Golden Lion. It scooped the award for “Svizzera 240: House Tour”, focusing on optimal living quarters. The empty Swiss apartment features rooms of various dimensions, making visitors feel either like a midgets or giants. (SRF/

Another first: the government-funded Swiss Arts Council, Pro Helvetia, held a competition to choose the Swiss contribution. The winners, selected from 80 competitors, were Alessandro Bosshard, Li Tavor, Matthew van der Ploeg and Ani Vihervaara from the Federal Institute for Technology in Zurich. (ETHZ). They have worked together since 2015 and live in Zurich. 

Question of perspective

Their "House Tour" seems to be just an empty apartment, but as Pro Helvetia project leader Marianne Burki explains: "The interior scenes are constructed on a range of different scales and spliced together, creating a labyrinthine sequence of interior perspectives”.

The wall heights, as the title of this "Svizzera 240: House Tour" suggests, all deviate from a building rule for apartments that prevails in most countries - a ceiling height of 240 centimetres. The door, window and cabinets are all made to fit the sizes of the rooms. The further you venture into the apartment, the smaller or larger it becomes.

Alain Berset, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, said the Golden Lion is an “extraordinary success for the team of young architects and at the same time it underlines the world-class quality of Swiss architecture”. 

Other famous Swiss architects are also featured. In the central pavilion, on a big blue-walled balcony, are the models of Peter Zumthor. He shows simple, functional buildings that work in harmony with their environment.  Gion Caminada shows how he makes use of free space in the mountains of Graubünden in eastern Switzerland. He's in the arsenal exhibition area along with Angela Deuber, who won the architecture prize for concrete in Germany in 2017. 

The 16th International Architecture Exhibition continues until 25 November 2018.

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