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Society marks century of serving heritage

The SHS wants to build a bridge from the past to the present

The Swiss Heritage Society (SHS) has celebrated its centenary in an empty shoe factory to focus attention on the need to preserve historical monuments.

The society was founded in 1905 during a period when the first negative repercussions of industrialisation were being felt in both urban and rural areas.

The SHS president, Caspar Hürlimann, said during the ceremony in the town of Dulliken in canton Solothurn on Saturday that the independent society was needed as much today as in the past to keep the authorities in check.

According to the SHS, it is the oldest environmental organization in the country, which has left its mark on the history of monument preservation and heritage and landscape protection, by helping draft Swiss laws.

Hürlimann said the society has played a key role over the decades in combating uncontrolled urban sprawl, which has been responsible for the destruction of much of the countryside.

Matterhorn project

In its early years, the SHS lost many battles to stop the building of mountain railways and cable cars, but did help defeat plans to conquer Switzerland’s most famous mountain, the Matterhorn, by mechanical means.

Hürlimann added that the SHS would continue to lobby for the preservation of Swiss architecture.

He said to mark the centenary, the SHS would create a new foundation, based on a British model (Landmark Trust), to save threatened heritage buildings.

The goal of the project is to raise funds to restore small structures and convert them into holiday homes, with the income generated going to cover maintenance costs.

Wakker

The SHS awards prizes for exemplary achievements. The best known is the Wakker prize, awarded annually to a city or town which has proved to be a model of planning and development.

As an exception this year, the Wakker was given to the Swiss Federal Railways for its "high demands on design and respect for old railway buildings".

The SHS also gives a Heritage and Horticulture award each year.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

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.

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