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Idyllic mountain pasture to attract more tourists

How can sustainable tourism revive the Walser settlement without disregarding the location’s identity, for example? Such questions were investigated by architecture students from the University of Liechtenstein with their lecturers Professor Conradin Clavuot and Martin Bühler. They have come up with various solutions.

Idyllic mountain pasture to attract more tourists
Architecture students at the University of Liechtenstein aim to bring sustainable tourism to Steg

When inhabitants of Steg are asked what they appreciate most about their village, they mention its peace and quiet, relaxing atmosphere and remoteness. The ring-shaped rows of houses in Grosssteg and Kleinsteg at around 1,300 metres above sea level at the entrance to the Samina Valley are unique and worth being preserved. However, time has not stood still here either, and some urgent questions related to tourism require an answer. How can sustainable tourism revive the Walser settlement without disregarding the location’s identity, for example?

Such questions were investigated by architecture students from the University of Liechtenstein with their lecturers Professor Conradin Clavuot and Martin Bühler. They have come up with various solutions.


Increasing density at the reservoir

A project group, headed by the architect Martin Bühler, illustrated how the request for more holiday houses could be fulfilled without destroying the unique character of the mountain-pasture settlement of Steg. Sarah Hermann’s work is a great example of how this could be done. In a clever way, she has succeeded in combining images of traditional scattered Walser settlements with ideas of contemporary holidaymaking. Outside the historic ring of Steg, she has created a highly recognizable setting with a strong identity. The pressure to expand Steg is channelled to this location, and the extraordinary Walser settlement is thus preserved. The 24-year-old architecture student from Vaduz has known the place since she was a child and is aware of its characteristic features. Therefore, building between the existing houses or adding a second row was out of the question for the student in the Bachelor’s degree programme. She believes that the settlement’s character would be changed and comments: “The project was a real challenge. On the one hand, I wanted to let my creative ideas flow, on the other, I was trying to take into account the traditional views of the inhabitants of Steg. Doing justice to both these extremes was a real balancing act.”


Sarah Hermann: Cross section view

Finding your inner peace
Sarah Hermann’s prototype of a holiday house is not a traditional building with individual rooms. Modelled after the scattered Walser settlements, the layout is split into a group of houses. The holiday house is turned into a village, within which each building is assigned a specific use. Its residents move from public to private places and experience living in a new dimension. The deeper you venture into the building, the more peace and privacy you will find. This is how a Steg holiday feeling evolves, an atmosphere beyond anything you would find at a five-star hotel chain. For her holiday houses, Sarah Hermann  has chosen a light construction method with wooden frames. The homes are clad in horizontal larch boards, with the bathrooms being the only rooms featuring massive plastered walls.


Floor plan


Integrating public buildings
The questions the group headed by Professor Conradin Clavuot tried to answer were of a different nature. His students also explored the expansion of the settlement; however, their designs featured the subtle placement and integration of new buildings in Steg. Mierta Feuerstein (26), from the Engadin village of Zuoz, situated her dairy, sports centre and small hotel with a restaurant on the main road to Malbun, between the cooperatives Grosssteg and Kleinsteg. Her heating plant forms a link between the two cooperatives. That way, she aims to keep the residential and holiday houses free from noise. 


Mierta Feuerstein: External perspective central heating system


New architecture in a traditional form

The student in the Master’s degree programme focused on Steg’s culture and character, and has tried to incorporate her houses into the original settlement structure by copying the original houses’ height, roof shape and facade design, expanding the place’s identity. After in-depth research, Mierta Feuerstein opted for the traditional log construction method, which she adapted to suit the new buildings and used to define their shape. This construction style is mirrored in the surrounding holiday houses. The raw material, wood, is plentiful in the vicinity. The dairy, a tall and narrow house, provides rooms on the top floor for the cheese maker, which can also be rented out to hotel guests during the off season. The four-storey hotel includes twin and shared rooms. The spacious halls offer room for small libraries and recreational activities. The three-storey sports centre offers showering facilities and changing rooms. The top floor is reserved for Liechtenstein cross-country skiers. Common rooms or storage facilities can be created here. “By transforming existing historical structures and cultural elements, I wanted my buildings to express their own identity. At the same time, they should blend into the present location without disrupting the scenery.”


Interior perspective: apartment and cheese dairy

Year-round utilization
The heating plant, which at first is only recognizable by its chimney, provides the settlement with heat and hot water in winter. Thus, tourists can visit the region all year round. “By linking two bridges, a platform is created, which can be used as a public square or temporary parking area,” explains the architect. Wood chippings are used as a heating material. The energy is delivered to the houses via pipes. The Graubünden citizen often draws parallels to her native village Zuoz. In the past, buildings were constructed there without taking into account the original building history and culture. They appear empty and dislocated from their surroundings, and are only occupied by tourists – she believes the locals have lost something. That is why she has tried to breathe cultural life and character into her models. 


Focus settlement expansion with new buildings


Overview

Two projects that could not be more different. Two projects that demonstrate how diverse sustainable tourism in Steg could be, without damaging the location’s identity.