Let’s dig (english summary)
Salon Suisse 2016: Thursday 20th October
Salonnière Leïla El-Wakil opens the October Salon with a citation from the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. This salon bears the title “Let’s Dig” and concerns cave architecture in Iran, Cairo and Switzerland. It ranges from proto-Christian underground houses until today, where a new generation of architects are looking into new, original, natural and affordable constructive methods.
Ecological Advantages of Underground Houses
«For the majority of people, cave architecture refers to ancient cave men», explains El-Wakil. Yet, today, we spend half of our lifetime at subsurface levels, in the metro, parking lots or shopping centres. For the last forty years, Peter Vetsch has built underground houses in Switzerland. He sums up their advantages: cold in summer and warm in winter, and consequently affordable from an energy perspective; furthermore, they protect the landscape and are perfectly aligned with nature.
Their special shape challenges the esthetical conceptions of the neighbourhood and authorities have doubts about the roofs’ resistance; what if a cow, while grazing on the roof, falls down into the living room, notes Vetsch, who suggests its «resistance comes from the shape: a cupola can support a great weight, as for example the Pantheon in Rome».
Hans Hollein and Joseph Beuys
Peter Vetsch started to build his underground houses in 1974. He wanted to build something durable. As a student, he was interested in the sculpture architecture of Hans Hollein and Joseph Beuys. To build these, we dig a hole and fill the foundations with concrete, and then build a concrete membrane with the desired shape.
After this, we build conduits and we cut windows and doors. The concrete membrane is sprayed with concrete and re-covered with a plaster that prevents roof damage. Eventually, last plaster of polyurethane is applied to protect against moisture.
The Constraints of Industrial Prefabrication
Wherever Peter Vetsch builds, scepticism is transformed into curiosity, then into joy. He believes in the potential of underground houses and sees a big advantage in their constructive flexibility. From the desire of the client, he gives shape to the house.
Although Peter Vetsch mainly builds in Switzerland, he believes this low-cost architecture is also relevant in emerging countries. Underground houses are earthquake and storm resistant and are thus well suited in the countries where dwellings are often destroyed.
Peter Vetsch, Switzerland: architect. Vetsch graduated from the Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf (1970) by Hans Hollein und Joseph Beuys. He worked in Düsseldorf and Zürich. He founded his own office in 1974 in Zurich, first in Zumikon and then in Dietikon. Pioneer of earth dwellings since the seventies, his realizations are celebrated worldwide. His revolutionary architecture is eco-friendly and allows a perfect symbiosis with nature. He uses shotcrete to build organic spaces which spare energy
Redaktion: Urs Honegger (Hochparterre)
Produktion: Roderick Hönig (Hochparterre), Urs Honegger (Hochparterre)
Korrektorat: Beat Zaugg
Porträt Peter Vetsch: Stefan Wittwer
Copyright: Pro Helvetia & Hochparterre 2016
Hochparterre dokumentiert den «Salon Suisse» 2016. Als offizieller Medienpartner begleiten wir die Veranstaltungsreihe mit Hintergrundinformationen, Zusammenfassungen, Audiostatements, Bildern und Livestreamings. Der «Salon Suisse» ist das Begleitprogramm des Schweizer Auftritts an der 15. Internationalen Architekturbiennale – La Biennale di Venezia. Der «Salon Suisse» ist eine Initiative der Schweizer Kulturstiftung Pro Helvetia.
Hochparterre documente en exclusivité le «Salon Suisse» 2016. Le partenaire média officiel du salon suit la série d’événements au travers d’articles de fond, de résumés, d’enregistrements audios, d’images et de retransmissions en direct. Le «Salon Suisse» est le programme parallèle de la présence suisse à la 15e Biennale internationale d’architecture – La Biennale di Venezia. Le «Salon Suisse» est une initiative de la Fondation suisse pour la culture Pro Helvetia.
Hochparterre exclusively documents the «Salon Suisse» 2016. As official media partner Hochparterre provides multimedia background information with written articles, audiostatements, visuals and free live streaming of part of the «Salon Suisse» talks. «Salon Suisse» is a talks and event programme complementing Switzerland’s national participation at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. It is initiated by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia.