Capturing the heart of Switzerland

A tunnel vision - one of the pictures at a new exhibition in the Swiss Alpine Museum in Berne devoted to the St.Gotthard mountain in the heart of Switzerland.

This content was published on February 15, 2000 - 20:22

A tunnel vision - one of the pictures at a new exhibition in the Swiss Alpine Museum in Berne devoted to the St.Gotthard mountain in the heart of Switzerland.

The organisers of the exhibition have adopted a novel approach. Instead of taking a look at the long history of the St.Gotthard they commissioned 18 photographers from Switzerland, Italy, Britain, Belgium and France to give their personal interpretations of the Gotthard as they see it today.

The exhibition originated in Lugano's Gotthard Gallery, whose curator Luca Patocchi said the aim was to treat the St.Gotthard as a human body: "Therefore it is dissected into four specific sections - the womb, heart, artery and brain."

The womb section, for example, refers to the strategic importance of the Gotthard as a "national redoubt" symbolic of Swiss independence; as the heart it is the source of three major rivers, the Rhine, Rhone and Po; as the artery it is an important north-south transit route; and the section devoted to the brain reflects the way the photographers interpreted the ingenuity of the various Gotthard construction projects.

The Gotthard was first exploited as a mountain pass in the early 13th century. A railway tunnel was completed in 1880 and until 100 years later the only way across the top was a zigzag road rising to 2,091 metres above sea level. The 16.9 kilometre highway tunnel was opened in 1980.

Photographs are supplemented by videos showing that today there is more to the St.Gotthard than its massive scale, the power of nature and major engineering projects.

There are pictures of long traffic tailbacks leading to the northern road tunnel entrance in Canton Uri and in Canton Ticino at the southern end. These are familiar sights at peak holiday times, especially after an accident.

The St.Gotthard exhibition, which is supported by the Gotthard Bank, ends on August 13.

By Richard Dawson

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