Stadels: The age-old barns that fed the Alps

Virtually unchanged from the outside, inside the free-standing ‘cabins’ have been modernized in Cheseaux’s signature clean style, with smooth concrete floors and spruce wood walls. “I quickly realized that the laws did not allow me to transform the buildings because they were in an agricultural zone. So, I decided to save the heritage from ruin by using the philosophy of our ancestors, that is i.e. by moving them [to the pocket-sized village of La Forclaz, which is outside the agricultural zone]he told me. During the Little Ice Age (14th to 19th century), Swiss farmers frequently dismantled their barns and rebuilt them away from the advancing glaciers.

Few have traveled the distance traveled by Nikola Kapp’s 150-year-old stilt barn. Nestled in the rear garden of the former Zermatt banker’s house is a 4.5m x 5m gädi transplanted from the village of Eisten in the nearby Saas Valley. “We had to helicopter everything in,” she told me, pointing to the original wooden crucifix still affixed to the larch facade. “We numbered each piece of wood and even used some of the authentic nails,” she explained of the painstaking four-month restoration project undertaken in 2008. A labor of love, her Heidi-esque interior made of Kalu Gädi two floors. an instant hit on Airbnb. “My heart opens when I see the Matterhorn,” Kapp said of the view framed by a gingham curtain from the tangled-toothed peak.

My own gaze was drawn to the sun-scorched barns on stilts in the foreground. Although dwarfed by the snowy mountain, they still stand centuries later and hopefully for many centuries to come.

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