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Valbella Youth Hostel

Voa Sartons 41
7077 Valbella (GR)

Top Eu-label Hiq Minergie Quality-1 Steinbock-5 Swiss_lodge Swiss_solar Geeignet_v02 Free_house_wifi_v02 Swiss_family

Phone: +41 81 384 12 08
Fax: +41 81 384 45 58


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History - Alpine architecture

Alpine architecture 1932 saw the opening of the Valbella Youth Hostel – the first purpose-built youth hostel in Switzerland. The work of Chur architect J. Keller, it featured a contemporary design. Walls faced with rough stone typified the whole simple, almost archaic construction. In fact, the hostel was built partly with volunteer labour. The result was a modern, yet specifically Alpine, architecture comparable with buildings of that period by Rudolf Gaberel and, especially, Hans Leuzinger.

Even in those days, two windows above a corner seat in the dayroom perfectly framed the magnificent view down into the valley. In 1943, the first addition, at the front of the building, made more of this feature and opened out the view from the ground floor. In 1972, a second, much larger annex opened, adding a new set of rooms at right angles to the original building. A hipped roof combined the two parts into a compact whole.

Old and new in one hostel

By 2006, refurbishment was again unavoidable. The standard no longer
met contemporary expectations of a youth hostel. After thorough examination of a range of options, the Chur-based architectural practice of Bosch & Heim came up with a surprise. Their proposal was actually to keep the dull architecture of the 1970s wing, still prefectly usable, but to demolish and replace the rest. This retained the building’s exceptionally attractive position and highlighted the best of its original qualities. The oldest parts of the building, whose simple fabric would have been incompatible with modern demands without radical alteration, were demolished. A new, longer and taller wing then rose on the same spot, recreating a tower-like aspect. This adapted the entire scale of the building to the different, perhaps less diffuse background culture of the present day. This serves to re-emphasise the hostel’s special significance as a semi-public building. Most important, the hostel has a «head» again which, like the 1932 building, looks down into the valley below.

The success of this rebuilding lies not in juxtaposing old and new, but in merging them into a unity. The two-tone grey render seems at first at odds with this concept, apparently juxtaposing old and new on the approach side. However, the shades are very similar. Only close scrutiny reveals that the difference is not purely attributable to the changing angle of incidence of the light.

Committed to modernity

The entire building stands out for its economy, not only in the financial
resources invested in it, but above all in the few, yet ingenious architectural features employed. This economy connects it with its first predecessor, whose character lives on, although none of its fabric survives and there is no explicit allusion to its formal elements. And it aligns the new building with traditional Alpine architecture, whose rationality, functionality and sensitivity to location were already admired in those early days of modern architecture. The converted and re-built facility is the first in the Swiss Youth Hostel network to be constructed in accordance with the Minergie-Eco building standard.

Valbella Youth Hostel today

Valbella Youth Hostel today

The first building from 1932

The first building from 1932

View from the dayroom

View from the dayroom