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Delémont wins top heritage prize

The old part of town in Delémont, an award-winning example of urban development.

The Swiss Heritage Society has awarded the 2006 Wakker Prize to Delémont, the capital of canton Jura, at a ceremony in the courtyard of the city's castle.

Delémont, called Delsberg in German, was praised for its clear strategy of spatial planning which had resulted in a cautious and quality-focused urban development.

The Swiss Heritage Society has always maintained that the protection of heritage is as much about new design as preservation and on Saturday Philippe Bieler, the organisation’s president, extolled these virtues once again.

“Thanks to continuous commitment, the city has succeeded in fostering a sustainable urban development and a good new architecture,” he said.

Bieler picked out for special praise the new design of the main station square and the improved use of the street space in the old part of the town.

Gilles Froidevaux, the mayor of Delémont, accepted the award “with pride and joy” and said it was a great recognition for the city, which has a population of around 12,000, as well as a responsibility for future development.

The SFr20,000 ($16,200) that accompanies the award is largely symbolic – the Wakker Prize’s main value comes from public recognition and awareness it generates.

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

swissinfo with agencies

Founded in 1905, the Swiss Heritage Society has about 17,000 members.
It is the umbrella organization of 25 cantonal chapters.
Its focus is on the preservation of important landmarks, the development of the structural environment, and the promotion of good architectural design.

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 – although last year it went to a public institution, the Swiss Railways.

Previous winners include Swiss Railways (2005), Biel (2004), Sursee (2003) Geneva (2000) and Bern (1997).

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