Solothurn Youth Hostel
History - Haus am Land
The Haus am Land in Solothurn’s old town can look back on a long and eventful building history. The historic town of Solothurn was established in the early Middle Ages within the former Roman fort which was of significant importance as “Salodurum” on the military road from Aventicum (Avenches) in the direction of Augusta Raurica (Augst) and Vindonissa (Windisch). It is therefore to be assumed that on the “Land”, the landing stage on the River Aare, buildings were constructed for handling goods in very early times.
A history stretching back over more than 800 years
Archaeological excavations in 1992 and 1993 in connection with the conversion of the youth hostel uncovered evidence of a stone building measuring 13 x 6 metres with the remains of a fireplace and an oven from the 13th century.
At some time between the 15th and 17th centuries, a number of these small parcels of land were amalgamated in order to build a single large building upon it. After various interventions and conversions, the result was a grand hall, 23 metres in length and 11 metres in width, the dimensions of which already corresponded with the present-day east and centre section.
In those days, the building belonged to Victor Biss, the bailiff of Falkenstein, and served him and his family as a dwelling house. Mismanagement or possible weather-related harvest failures forced the bailiff into debt with the city fathers, with the result that he was forced to hand over the building to the patrician town.
From customs house to schoolhouse
For some time, the town of Solothurn could find no use for the house. It was only after a few years that agreement was reached to relocate the trading and customs house – at that time a long distance from the landing stage – to the River Aare. An extension on the west side and an additional storey in 1682 with two massive gable cranes served as a store. A large room, regularly used for theatrical performances, was also created in the attic at this time.
With the abolition of the tithe in 1837, the trading and customs house lost its importance. It was only in 1868 that the town council decided to convert the building into a schoolhouse. With a major demolition of parts of the classical-style building, it was converted into a schoolhouse with a central section and two side wings. After completion, it housed the French Bourbaki Army for short period in 1871. Thereafter, the Haus am Land served as a schoolhouse for around 120 years. The cramped conditions in Solothurn old town were scarcely conducive to modifications and enlargements however, with the result that new school buildings outside the old town walls took over its functions.
The youth hostel
This meant that a new use had to be found for the building and in 1992 a start was made by incorporating conference rooms and a youth hostel. During the three-year conversion, interference with the building substance of the historic structure was deliberately kept to a minimum. The solidity of the protected outer shell in stone and brickwork contrasts with the feel of precision and high-tech of the internal steel and glass construction. Externally, the contemporary interventions are mainly apparent through the extension built in the yard. The exposed concrete façade with its precisely positioned openings extending over the entire building height is the dominant feature of the old-town courtyard which had hardly been used up to that time.
Solothurn Youth Hostel today
City view 1548
Archaeological excavations 1992–1993