The Swiss Chalet is a type of building born from the rural tradition, the term “chalet” described, the first time it appeared in 1328, simple log huts that were occupied by farmers and breeders during the pasture. These were therefore rudimentary shelters used only for a few months of the year. These buildings, although in our eyes they may seem completely detached from today’s concept of housing, have had a great influence in defining the residential architecture, mainly alpine architecture, of Western Europe and the United States. 

Much has changed over the years revolutionizing Swiss chalet-style Architecture from the log cabin to the home we know today.

Main features

These rural architectures and their modern offspring are generally characterized by a regular plant in shape and volume, the footprint on the ground is generally compact with the aim of minimizing excavations and difficulties related to building on steep slopes. 

The foundation system consists, in tradition, of stone, and in the most modern concrete constructions and is exposed on the downstream side. Also on the downstream side, there are large windows and balconies that aim to unite the interior of the house outside and allow you to enjoy the beautiful views. Balconies are often bordered by often decorated and carved wooden railings.

From Switzerland to the world

In the period of export of swiss chalet-style architecture, opinions on this were different and conflicting. On the one hand, Ruskin defined buildings of this kind, at the time built in England, a melancholy deception and first of charm as incongruous because they were extrapolated from the context in which they were born. It would have given the same definition to American exports of Swiss Chalets, but this did not expand significantly until the post-Civil War economy boomed. 

From a different point of view was William Dana who, in The Swiss Chalet Book (1913), described the peculiarities of Swiss chalet-style architecture, commending its charm and universal application, as well as the suitability of the architectural style applicable and adaptable to every site and environment.

Despite the different points of view, we can say that the Swiss chalet style Architecture, the one represented, for example, by the Chalets that are located in the Swiss Open-Air Museum Ballenberg would not qualify as residential architecture (classification in which it mainly falls today), as housing was not the purpose for which they were born, what many of these structures represent, however, it is the perfection of a type of building that has sustained a lifestyle in often difficult conditions. The shape of which has been exported to different countries and at different times and has therefore changed and acquired different functions depending on context and needs.

1. Villa Genolier – LRS Architecture

This modern minimalist Swiss chalet deviates from the vernacular design of the typical Swiss chalet style Architecture in contemporary and playful architecture that takes advantage of the topographical insertion of the beautiful and evocative Swiss scenery. The living spaces, reachable from the upper side of the plot, evolve under the roof, in front of the beautiful landscape of Lake Geneva and the Alps. 

The traditional atmosphere, despite the modernity of the shapes, is offered by the use of natural materials, large windows that frame the panorama, and bacon. 

Inside, the architects enhance a luxurious feeling of life with spacious, comfortable, and welcoming interiors. The combination of beautiful natural views, simplistic design, comfortable furnishings, and a juxtaposition between traditional and modern enhances the beauty of this beautiful Swiss house.

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Villa Genolier – Street view ©
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Villa Genolier ©
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Villa Genolier 1 ©

2. Mountain House – Studio Razavi Architecture

In this highly preserved Alpine valley, strict architectural guidelines allow little architectural freedom. The architects then studied the tradition of chalets by integrating it with a modern design but ensuring the building’s compliance with the strict heritage protection code.

The typology of the building is therefore a modern re-proposal also of the distribution of internal functions. A plant made of farm animals on the ground floor, fodder upstairs, and housing/beds above is replaced. With a subdivision into car parking, mechanical room, ski storage on the ground floor, bedrooms upstairs, and living areas on the top floor.

This allowed creating a progressive experience in the building, from the darker and compressed spaces of the ground floor, concrete base of the building, to the gradually more open ceilings, full of light, taller than the wooden building that gradually opens to the landscape with many windows that guarantee a splendid view. 

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Mountain House 1 ©
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Mountain House 2 ©
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Mountain House 3 ©

3. Chalet Petrus – Agreiter Erich

A modern chalet, which deviates from the simple rustic concept of a classic chalet. A turnkey project made of local natural materials such as spruce wood, Dolomite stone, and larch tile.

The architectural goal is to create a sophisticated and detailed intervention that generates a combination of a modern and captivating style and the mountain soul typical of Swiss chalet-style Architecture.

The project functionally consists of three levels: on the first floor the living area, which has a spectacular view, on the ground floor the bedrooms, and on the lower floor a spacious wellness area.  

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Chalet Petrus ©
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Chalet Petrus 1 ©

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4. Chalet Dag – Chevallier Architectes

A chalet used as a summer residence never renovated since its construction 70 years ago, needed winter insulation.  The goal of the renovation was to use as much surface as possible as a living area by re-functionalizing the attic and isolating the building. 

Faced with different constraints, the architects created a modern re-proposal of the classic Swiss Chalet. Chalet Dag is built of traditional glass, metal, and larch wood; the wood was stained to coordinate with nearby racecards (small cabin used as a storage or shed). The large windows open the view of the Chamonix heights offering exceptional views of the mountains and thus creating a strong link with the environment of the Alpine forest in which it is set. 

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Chalet Dag ©
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Chalet Dag – front view ©
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Chalet Dag – entrance view ©

5. Le Domaine des Bois – Chevallier Architectes

In this project one of the objectives is to preserve the spirit of the village, preserving the pedestrian paths, as many trees and volumes as possible on several levels. In the design and construction of this building, a lot of attention was given to colors.The concrete has been chosen as the main material although to maintain the external image of the chalet is coated with stones and wood. Large windows make the view of the spectacular panorama of the mountain’s space.

Le Domaine des Bois - Chevallier Architectes - Sheet1
Little Duma Tu – lagoon view ©
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Little Duma Tu – view ©
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Little Duma Tu – pool view ©

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