Heritage prize highlights urban development

Something old and something new: the renovated Suvarov House in Altdorf Keystone

The town of Altdorf in central Switzerland has been awarded the Wakker Prize, the country's most important heritage award, for its urban development.

This content was published on January 16, 2007 - 12:04

The Swiss Heritage Society (SHS) said the local authorities had been successful in implementing a clear policy on new construction and renovations respecting the environment.

Announcing the award in Zurich on Tuesday, the jury said Altdorf was trying along with neighbouring municipalities and the canton to ensure moderate urban development. The quality and high architectural standards the town sets for its own and private projects were considered particularly important.

The renovation of the Suvarov House that dates back to 1550 and the extension of the 1950s St Karl school complex were cited as examples of successful projects. The school extension was successfully integrated within the perimeter of a nearby convent.

The heritage society also commended the town's efforts to preserve 16 kilometres of old natural stone walls. The local authorities implemented a project unique in Switzerland to repair eight kilometres of the walls that were threatening to collapse.

Besides safeguarding these old constructions, the jury said that the project had also contributed to preserving the visual character of Altdorf.

Last year the city of Delémont in canton Jura was honoured; in 2005 the Swiss Federal Railways was given the prize, the first time a town had not received the award.


The SFr20,000 ($16,000) prize is largely symbolic, but it brings recognition throughout the country to the winners. It will be handed over on May 12.

The award was launched in 1972 after Geneva businessman Henri-Louis Wakker made a bequest to the SHS. In the 1970s, the society tended to make the award to towns that had preserved their historical centres.

Today, the society considers that the Wakker Prize should go to municipalities that try to implement harmonious development polices, which should include design criteria for new buildings, respect when renovating older constructions as well as exemplary urban planning.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Founded in 1905, the Swiss Heritage Society has about 17,000 members.
It is the umbrella organization of 25 cantonal chapters.
Its focus is on the preservation of important landmarks, the development of the structural environment, and the promotion of good architectural design.

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