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Swiss Federal Railways receives heritage prize

A prototype of the modular station building at Muntelier-Löwenberg. SBB

The Swiss Federal Railways has been given the 2005 Wakker Prize – a top Swiss heritage award – at a ceremony at Zurich station.

It is the first time that Switzerland’s National Heritage Society has awarded the prize to another public institution instead of a town or village.

The Swiss Federal Railways won the award for its careful respect of its old buildings and the use of top architects for its new ones.

Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin handed over the prize to Swiss Federal Railways head Benedikt Weibel at the ceremony on Saturday.

Weibel said the 2005 Wakker prize was an honour and an incentive for the company. The prize money, SFr20,000 ($15,700), would be donated to the Swiss Society for Art and History, added Weibel.

For its part, the Swiss Heritage Society, which celebrates its centenary this year, said it was the first time the prize had gone to a public service company.

It commended the railways for its new buildings which were proof of “great care and high creative standards”. Its older buildings were found to show “great consciousness of architectural and cultural heritage”.

This greatly contributed to the company’s image, added the society.

Good examples

Good examples of the railways’ architectural policy included the passages recently constructed at the station in the capital, Bern and in Basel station and the new station in Zug.

However, the prize covers the whole spectrum of railways buildings – from stations to ancillary sheds, workshops, signal boxes, power stations, tunnels and bridges.

The society said it wanted to emphasise that heritage was not just about preservation but also about design.

The first Wakker prize was awarded to Stein am Rhein in 1972 for its old town, following a legacy from Geneva businessman Henri-Louis Wakker. Last year it was awarded to Biel, the country’s largest bilingual city.

swissinfo with agencies

The Swiss Federal Railways is the owner of about 6,000 buildings and 7,000 bridges.

It invests SFr170 million ($138.25 million) every year in real estate.

The Wakker Prize of the Swiss Heritage Society has its origins in a legacy bequeathed by Henri-Louis Wakker (1875-1972) of Geneva.

The prize has been awarded annually since 1972 to a town or village.

This is the first time the Swiss Heritage Society has awarded the prize to another public institution.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR