Zumtobel Lights Swiss Village of Bürchen

Zumtobel luminaires light Swiss village -- Photo courtesy of Andreas Waldschütz

In the Swiss village of Bürchen, a lighting solution from Zumtobel adds a magical atmosphere to the new central square. The design concept of radial illumination shapes the unique environment in Bürchen when darkness falls. The design was devised at the Biennale Architettura 2014 in Venice following Zumtobel’s discussions with architect Fernando Menis. Menis based his approach to architectural lighting design on the distinctive way rays of light fall through the trees.

Zumtobel decided that its SUPERSYSTEM outdoor was ideal to sprinkle the pretty alpine mountain village with soft circles of light.

As the sunbeams cascaded through the dense foliage and illuminated the Giardini with soft radial light circles, the vision of the lighting concept for “Bürchen Mystic” was born. The concept was to illuminate the village square of the tiny community of 700-inhabitants in the Swiss canton of Valais with similar spiraling circles.

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Artificial light was employed to imitate the light moods created when the sun’s rays interplayed with the surroundings. The design also had to account for the changes in daylight during the different seasons.
In addition, Zumtobel wanted the light to form subtle pools that help guide pedestrians across the square.

Like many other resorts in the Alps, Bürchen struggles with a weak economy and the steady stream of young people leaving for other places. The village of Bürchen organized an architecture competition in 2013 to try and reverse the trend of tourists leaving for other destinations. Also, the village decided to complement its winter tourism with an appealing summer offer and the creation of attractive long-term jobs.

Fernando Menis architectural design beat out strong competition from some renowned international entrants. Menis’ concept brought together the redesigning of the village square with the construction of a new hotel and other facilities to boost the local economy and tourism. His design approach that impressed the jury was aligned with nature and deeply rooted in the imposing landscape, history and the traditions of Bürchen.

At the same time, his plan fulfilled the core requirements of economic, social and ecological sustainability. A customized lighting solution from Zumtobel made the realization of the design possible. The Zumtobel solution is now available as a further-developed version of a standard product: SUPERSYSTEM outdoor.

The LED exterior luminaires were optimized for the multiple zones used to showcase the opens spaces and streets. Each luminaire features a number of LED light tubes, which can be individually equipped with appropriate optics. Despite the uniform appearance, these individual optics can blend specific accents as well as improve visual comfort and wellbeing.

Zumtobel luminaires illuminate Swiss village

Zumtobel luminaires illuminate Swiss village–Photo courtesy of Zumtobel Andreas Waldschütz

In the evening, Zumtobel’s lighting solution highlights the natural charm of Bürchen’s central square creating an emotional, comfortable atmosphere that harmonizes perfectly with nature.

Visual artist Andreas Waldschütz has now provided a genuine visual insight into this special atmosphere through a series of dramatic pictures. The interplay of light with the architecture of the mountain village and the alpine landscape on a plateau is intriguingly presented with his unmistakable style.

As a result of the cooperation between Zumtobel and Fernando Menis, “Bürchen Mystic” now constitutes an additional tourist attraction, creating new jobs and helping to weaken the economic dependency on second homes. The village square now also makes the living space of the local population more attractive. Once largely devoid of people, the new square is now a welcoming location for visitors and villagers alike.

The “Bürchen Mystic” initiative was named among the best 20 projects from hundreds of submissions for the European Prize for Urban Public Space, an award that recognizes special achievements in architecture and urban planning.

Bürchen Plaza is also one of ten ventures vying to be named “best landscape project” at the renowned World Architectural Festival (WAF) in Berlin, the largest international architectural festival.

Menis is planning a second major phase of his design concept; the construction of a hotel he calls the “inhabited forest”, a wood-like structure that will be fully integrated into the surrounding landscape.