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Fällanden Youth Hostel

Im Rohrbuck
Maurstrasse 33
8117 Fällanden (ZH)

Simple Swiss_solar Free_wifi_v02

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Geschichte - Swiss architectural history alongside Lake Greifensee

The youth associations in the city of Zurich had long nurtured the dream of having a hostel in the country. Organised in the Zurich Youth Hostels Association, the idea gradually evolved into tangible form and the search for a suitable piece of land began.

The preferred location on Lake Zurich would have exceeded the financial resources of the time by a wide margin however, with the result that nearby Lake Greifensee was chosen instead.

Emil Roth

Zurich architect Emil Roth was entrusted with the planning. Born in Bari in 1893 as the son of an expatriate Swiss, his family returned to Switzerland where he completed part of his schooling alongside Lake Constance and studied architecture at the ETH Zurich from 1911. A serious lung disease contracted after beginning his active military service forced him to break off his education. Once Emil Roth was healed and able to leave the sanatorium world, he worked as an assistant in a wide number of building trades and it was not until 1922 that he recommenced working as a trainee planner in a Basel architectural practice.

He was co-founder of the important avant-garde magazine “ABC” and its first editorial employee. As a result, he soon also gained an international reputation. This is also the time of the collaboration in El Lissitzky’s project of the “Wolkenbügel”, one of the most important contributions of the Russian constructivist architecture. In addition, he planned – in cooperation with the architects Hubacher & Steiger, Artaria & Schmidt and Häfeli – the Werkbund housing estate “Neubühl“ in Zurich, which is probably the most important housing estate of the classical modernism in Switzerland in the form that manifested itself in Germany with Bauhaus during the interwar period.

The building

The programmatic objectives of modernism, such as simplicity and functionality were tailor-made for the task of designing a youth hostel. Roth manifested them through uncompromising rejection of all decorative elements. Here, the materialisation in wood and the traditional post-and-beam construction created an interesting thematic link to Switzerland and its craft professions.

Realisation of the project started out on a somewhat uncertain footing. It was only possible to meet the construction budget at the time of CHF 70,000.- thanks to support from the City of Zurich, the Canton, private donations and many hours of voluntary work on the part of young people and tradesmen.

On 6 June 1937, Fällanden Youth Hostel was officially opened. Just two years later in 1939, Emil Roth by now seriously ill again, retired from architecture. This means that the youth hostel, alongside the Werkbund’s housing estate Neubühl and the Doldertal houses realised in collaboration with his cousin Alfred Roth, is regarded as one of his main works and also the only one realised completely on his own. The youth hostel is today protected as a historic monument by the cantonal and federal authorities.

The youth hostel was designed to accommodate 70 persons. This meant that it soon found itself among the smaller youth hostels and was often heavily overbooked due to its outstanding location. Nevertheless, comfort was a long time coming. Hot water was only installed in the showers in the course of restoration work in the 1970’s. In 1981 a part of the building was burnt out and within 4 months it was rebuilt to a better standard.

Fällanden Youth Hostel today

Fällanden Youth Hostel today

Fällanden Youth Hostel on Lake Greifensee 1937

Fällanden Youth Hostel on Lake Greifensee 1937

Kitchen with the first cooker

Kitchen with the first cooker