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Crans-Montana Youth Hostel

"Bella Lui"
Route du Zotzet 8
3963 Crans-Montana

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History – from a sanatorium to a monument of today’s modern architecture

The Bella Lui has changed its function several times over the course of its history. It was originally built as a sanatorium and was then temporarily used as a sports hotel during the 1930s. During the Second World War, it served as a home for young Jewish refugees and during the middle of the twentieth century it was again used as a convalescent home for patients with lung diseases. In 1951 the building was acquired by an association that was specially founded for this purpose and which initially continued to run the establishment as a convalescent home. It was reconverted into a health spa and hotel in 1965 and in 2016 the hotel was passed over to Swiss Youth Hostels which converted the building into a youth hostel.

Montana Health Resort

The high plateau of Montana boasts an exceptionally good climate thanks to its position approximately 1,500 metres above sea level. During the summer, the south facing plateau enjoys up to 14 hours of sunshine. These conditions make Montana a perfect location for a health resort. The population grew rapidly at the end of the 19th century which brought with it a significant deterioration in hygiene conditions. This created an ideal breeding ground for infectious diseases such as tuberculosis. To promote the healing of patients suffering from lung diseases, numerous sanatoriums were opened in Switzerland at the beginning of the 20th century, including Montana which soon earned a reputation as a high-quality health resort.

Supporting Convalescence at Bella Lui

The most important prerequisites for a sanatorium were a location that was protected from the wind and surrounded by lots of greenery, a good water supply, a south or south-south-east aspect, light and partitioned rooms and individual opportunities for sunbathing. Dr Haller Stähelin commissioned the architect couple Rudolf and Flora Steiger-Crawford to build the Bella Lui sanatorium in 1928 and they created a health resort that met all these requirements to perfection. Rudolf and Flora Crawford Steiger made excellent use of modern technology and created a building that perfectly satisfied the requirements for light, air and sunlight. Switzerland also became all the richer with the completion of a building that was to become a unique testimony of modern architecture.

Conservation of a Unique Architectural Monument

The building is now considered to be an outstanding monument of modern architecture. The clean, horizontal lines on the facade that are further accentuated by the balconies, the strong emphasis on functionality and the simple language of form using elements that are integrated within each other are typical characteristics of architecture from this era.  Art historian and architecture critic Sigfried Giedion praised the building and considered that it was one of the few buildings that made a positive contribution to the ‘furtherance of the sanatorium issue in real terms’ and pointed out that it was the first residential building in Switzerland to use a welded iron framework construction. In 2002 the building was classified as a historic monument and a protected building by the canton of Valais. Following many different conversions and improvement measures, the building underwent a renovation by architects Actescollectifs from Sierre in 2016/2017 which resulted in the restoration of the historical components of the building and which made the new elements more prominent.