ISSN 2283-7558

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Chiara Della Ferrera


Laureata in Architettura presso l’ateneo di Firenze, ha indirizzato i suoi studi sulla conservazione e il recupero dell’edilizia storica tradizionale

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come espressione di una “scelta ambientale” di vita in alta quota

La colonizzazione delle Alpi da parte del popolo walser è uno dei più significativi esempi di adattamento alla vita in alta quota. L’architettura walser si riconosce facilmente per l’uso preponderante del legno e della pietra locali e ogni caratteristica morfologica costituisce una risposta alle difficoltà di un clima rigido e un territorio impervio. È lo specchio di una “scelta ambientale” di adattamento alle difficoltà della vita in alta quota, nel pieno rispetto e nella profonda conoscenza dell’ambiente alpino in cui questo popolo si è insediato.

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as expression of an “environmental choice” of living in heights

The migration of the Walser people began in the Swiss canton of Valais. We can only speculate about the possible reasons for migration: over-population, climate change, poverty, but this, was one of the most significant colonization of the Alps.
The Walser people begin to settle in the Formazza valley before 1211, and it’s the oldest colony of north-western Italy, but we have no historical documents to find the precise year. When they arrived they deforested the steeper slopes and built a series of little villages along the only route that crosses all the valley from north to south, from Switzerland to Italy. Nowadays we can still find the original set of the villages and we can find many examples of traditional walser architecture.
The idea of “environmental choice”, resume the choice of the walser people of living in a difficult and inhospital land, with a wise and respectful knowledge of the delicate equilibrium of the mountain habitat. Speaking about their architecture, this choice come out in the organization of the villages, the shape of the buildings and the use of materials: every detail is a compromise between survival and respect of the environment.
Even if we can’t find a particular scheme in urban organization, we can observe that every house is oriented in the best way possible, and buildings were only built in the areas protected from mountain dangers: avalanches, brakes and floods. Large extensions of lawn were vital for the hay, which was picked up during the very short summer season.
The typical walser houses are made from larch wood and stone: usually we find a thick basement made from stones and the upper part made with wood shaped trunks wedged with the traditional technique of Blockbau.
The typical walser stables are larch wooden buildings that lean on mushroom shaped short columns with a wooden stem and a cap built with a big disc of stone. Those columns, called “mushrooms” were useful to preserve the hay from mouses and humidity.
Studying this architecture is complicated because of its nature of self-generated and adaptable architecture. So it’s difficult to scheme the huge amount of data we can find. Restoring these buildings is difficult because they are no longer able to satisfy the nowadays characteristics and performances of houses.