Ballenberg Open Air Museum
Switzerland’s only open-air museum, and opened comparatively recently just over fifty years ago, in 1978. The museum is close to Brienz in the Bernese Oberland region, and both town and region are the centre of wood carving traditions in Switzerland.
The museum contains around one hundred and ten conserved buildings, the majority of the contrasting regions being represented across different dedicated parts of the museum’s 66 hectare grounds. Divided into twelve regional groupings and a further Alpine economic section, the majority – though not all – of these feature timber buildings from different periods in the Swiss Federation’s history. They include: Central, Bernese and Eastern Midlands – these groupings of buildings include two multi-purpose labourer’s timber framed houses from the Swiss central heartlands, each with deep thatch roofs, from Leutwil and Oberentfelden – dating from the early 1800s and the 1600s respectively. In the Bernese Central Plateau section there are examples of 18th and 19th century farmhouses, alongside a collection of barns and other farm buildings, including an Emmental cheese storehouse. A working sawmill from Rafz in the Eastern midlands, adjoining a granary and dating from the 1840s – originally built on a quarry – continues to be powered by a waterwheel.
The 18th century Madiswil farmhouse includes the farming families’ living quarters and cattle stalls, along with a threshing floor. The roofs timber members and frame remain visible in the building with laths carried by rafters, as well as the shingles of the outer building on the external skin.
The timber farmhouse includes a sizeable threshing stall and floor extension from the main farmhouse building. The farmhouse, originally from Tentlingen, near Fribourg, dates from the 16th century. A smaller structure, a granary from Vaud, includes – in miniature – steep pitched roofs and semi-circular decorative motifs on the door, which echo elements on gothic barns further north, near Fribourg and Berne.
The south, south east and eastern Switzerland – this grouping includes buildings from across the south and eastern parts of Switzerland including Ticino and Valais.
An early 16th century house from Malvaglia/Serravalle in Ticino, where a log construction sits on hillside stilts and a masonry foundation is strengthened with timber posts. Other farm buildings and structures are also presented, the majority of which reveal stone as a core material, although other smaller and simpler farming structures are made from wood, such as hillside grain drying racks.
Throughout the Rhone Valley, square timber is the principal timber building approach used, while half-timber construction is almost completely absent, with square timber construction the principal construction found. The museum contains a series of farm buildings from Blatten village in the Lötschen valley profiling the half-timber constructions that took root in the region.
In addition, Ballenberg Open Air Museum maintains a number of permanent exhibitions, an expansive range of handcrafts, including wood-carving, shingle-making, sawing (in the Rafz saw-mill), and the craft of the wainwright, which were all part of daily life and livelihoods in the past, plus a crafts database (in German).
A series of short films about the past and present lives of buildings and the geographical places they came from can be found here.
The museum is also the site of the Swiss Farmhouse Research project – see below.
Is considered the oldest-known extant timber building in Europe – described on its website as a ‘mundane residential building’ – and dates, according to dendochronological testing, from around 1170. It is today a visitor centre, and was reconstructed and moved in 2015, as part of the Morgarten Project to Schornen am Morgarten, as part of a cultural history centre, brought about by the level of decay in the original timber structure.
The Grubenmann Museum
Dedicated to the family of master builders, can be found within the walls of the Zeughaus Teufen. A regional canton museum in the small Appenzell town where the Grubenmann brothers were born and spent their lives.
The museum details the origins, lives, and later history of the master builder family, featuring models of the Grubenmann brothers’ most revered bridges, in Schaffhausen and Wettingen, a number of other bridges, as well as their church structures and other engineering feats. There are also sections on the engineering tools and technologies that were used. Videos and other visual material also present the story. There have been various collaborations with architecture and engineering schools, including for instance, Ibois’ Project Grubenmann through 2016 and 2017.
The Engadin Museum
Situated in St Moritz, Graubünden. Although primarily focused on the life and culture of the Engadin region – including a display of 21 interiors – the museum also features elements of the historical and vernacular building culture, for instance a current exhibition features the influence of the Hartmann dynasty, who helped shape both the building culture and landscape of Graubünden over the course of three generations, and in particular the Engadin.
– the Wauwilermoos pile dwelling settlement centre
The Wauwilersee centre – an open air ‘learning path’ and UNESCO site are a series of three reconstructed pile dwellings dating from 4400 BC. First uncovered after the Wauwilersee was drained in the 1840s, along with further archaeological sites, including the Egolzwil Neolithic village which was discovered in 1929, the settlement makes for what is considered one of the best-preserved Neolithic archaeological sites in the country and of the Egolzwil culture. There are three stilt buildings or pile dwellings, an excavation tent, a hunters’ tent, as well as an information pavilion, built from ash, oak and alder, with thatch pitch roofs and clay walls. The archaeological learning path and the pile dwelling settlement can be visited freely without a guide. The stilt houses and the hunters’ tent are accessible with a guided tour.