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Interview with the Mayor

Peter Metzler talked to the Mayor of Blons Mr. Bachman

Mayor Bachman,  20 years ago, the town of Blons hired the architect, Bruno Spagolla to add an extension to the secondary school.  Back then it was built in the conventional concrete and brick fashion.  Now, 20 years later, we have the community centre and the elementary school, right in the middle of the town, built by the same architect using timber, and the question that comes to mind is:  What changed during the time in between?   Have standards changed in general, or was it the architectural style that changed, or what were the reasons for the community of Blons for using timber construction?

Basically, the township had timber available and we also wanted to tie the history of Blons into the centre, where there used to be an old, traditionally built farm house instead of a modern building.  We had a number of meetings and developed an environmentally friendly concept with our citizens and the architect which was meant to lead to a timber construction that could be built without the use of glue or other chemicals.  

Is there a new sense of self confidence mirrored in these two buildings, where people say that high quality architecture can be derived from high quality local resources?

The fact that architects from all over the world- like France and the USA, are coming here and there is a real boom in architecture tourism for us, is proof positive that a good piece of architecture was created.  We used unfinished Spruce, Silver Fir and Sycamore lumber.  Because we had 1,500 cubic meters of wood available in our own forest, we tried to involve local wood processing firms to keep the added value in the valley.  These buildings are also a good example of how to use Silver Fir in modern homes.

The wood used for the modern furnishings was also very finely finished and the processing plants developed a slab system in connection with using Silver Fir, which is multi-functional.  As you can see, we were also able to implement our ideas in the interior fittings and furnishings, and still stick to the very clear and simple architecture of the building.

You mentioned the ample supply of wood that your community was able to use.  The historical background of this was actually tragic, wasn‘t it?

That‘s right.  50 years ago we had a devastating avalanche in Blons.  There were numerous avalanches on one day and we had 55 casualties and 2 missing people in our village.  The protection forest was then re-forested and during the past few years we have had to carry out extensive renewal measures which led to being able to take as much wood as was needed for the new buildings, from the forest.

Mr. Mayor, lets go back to the technical aspects of the community centre.  There are ground probes that are connected to the community heating network and they heat the building.  What were your thoughts about that?   

Basically, we wanted to keep the added value in the valley by constructing a bio mass facility which would heat the building.  The ground probes help cool the building in the summer which it needs because of the elevated proportion of glass.  We invested a lot in a perfect ventilation system in order to keep energy costs to a minimum throughout the year.

The new community centre is still very young.  What do you, as the mayor, expect from the structural measures in regards to the social dynamics of the community?

We didn‘t have a restaurant here for three years, and this changed with the integration of a restaurant in the community centre.  The local supplier has also got the best chances in the elementary school building.  The village square, which is much bigger than the one we had, has led to unimagined enlivenment.  In the beginning, we wanted to build a social services department, but it came to light in a municipal council conference and in some events with the public, that an open community centre with a functioning local supplier were much more important enterprises.

Resistance to this uncompromising design was overcome during the numerous project presentations by the architects.

Since we won the construction prize in 2004, we have a lot of requests for architectural tours.  The project has been published in many trade magazines and commended by the daily press.  For this reason, it doesn‘t surprise us that so many people from all over, want to see it.

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