Switzerland’s dramatic mountainscape has long been conquered by mountaineers – and by engineers. Whether you’re an engineer or not, you can’t fail to be impressed by these incredible pioneering feats, old and new.
t Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge, with sweeping views of the peaks
Built in 2017 to connect two sections of the Europaweg, a summer hiking trail with stunning views, the Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge is the longest in the world. The daring walk across its 500-m (1,640-ft) length, swaying 85 m (280 ft) above the valley floor, is a real buzz. Once you’ve got a taste for it, try Glacier 3000’s Peak Walk, which stretches between two mountain summits, or cross above the tongue of a glacier on the Trift bridge.
Switzerland’s abundance of water means hydroelectricity is its primary power source, evidenced by numerous dams dotted throughout the mountains. King of them all is the 285-m- (930-ft-) high Grande Dixence, the tallest gravity dam in the world. Take a guided tour inside the dam and walk across its scenic top.
Switzerland’s peaks have always presented a welcome challenge to engineers. Europe’s first ever cogwheel mountain railway opened on Rigi mountain in 1871, while the Pilatusbahn, built in 1889, is still the steepest cogwheel in the world. Switzerland hasn’t stopped leading the way ever since. The new Matterhorn Glacier Ride cableway was named the world’s highest when it opened in October 2018, and the Stoosbahn in Schwyz became the world’s steepest classic funicular when it opened in 2017. As it climbs, the cylindrical carriages rotate, keeping its riders upright as it reveals the spectacular views below.
In Switzerland, obstacles only make your train journey more interesting. The UNESCO World Heritage Rhaetian Railway takes passengers through 55 tunnels and over nearly 200 viaducts and bridges, while the Jungfraubahn burrows through the infamous north face of the Eiger. No less impressive is the 57-km- (34-mile-) long Gotthard tunnel under the Saint Gotthard massif, which is the world’s longest and deepest rail tunnel.
It takes the average hiker 10 minutes to cross the Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge.
Switzerland for Engineering
Herzog & de Meuron
The work of this renowned Swiss duo can be seen all over their home city of Basel, but they also designed the summit restaurant and cable car station at Chäserrugg.
The Ticino-born architect has tackled Switzerland’s challenging landscape several times, including designing the three-storey building at the top of Glacier 3000.
Bearth & Deplazes (1915–1959)
In an extraordinarily isolated location, the Monte Rosa hut was designed by this firm from Chur as a contemporary version of a medieval donjon.