An imposing castle, an ordinary multi-purpose building, a compact skyscraper, a modern cube – Swiss city halls are highly varied in their appearance and history. But all fulfill their purpose as an interface between citizens and the authorities. Switzerland couldn’t function without them.
This content was published on April 30, 2016
Studied history and politics at University of Bern. Worked at Reuters, the newspapers Der Bund and Berner Zeitung, and the Förderband radio station. I am concerned with the Swiss practice of modern direct democracy in all its aspects and at all levels, my constant focus being the citizen.
Bern City Hall, dating from the 15th century, was once the seat of the Bern elite. Here, behind the thick sandstone walls, the councillors - all rich and from the nobility - sat together and made decisions about their subjects. Then Napoleon came and ended the regime.
Nowadays this former symbol of lack of freedom and oppression is the building where a democratically-elected local parliament decides, publically, how the city and canton should best be organised.
This transformation is a speculator, but not isolated one. Other city and town halls are more marked by their style than by their histories. They are all visual witnesses to diversity; a fundamental principle of Swiss democracy.
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