People and homes. Living, building and doing business in rural Switzerland

In conjunction with the University of Basel and Ballenberg Open-Air Museum, researchers at BFH are working on documenting the life stories of historic farmhouses and their inhabitants.



The landscape and agriculture in Switzerland are changing rapidly, and with them the corresponding research priorities. Nowadays, the focus is no longer only on the typology and construction of rural buildings, but also on how the concrete practices of building, living, dwelling and economic activity over the course of generations are all interwoven. Houses and people are examined in terms of their economic, social and cultural interaction and transformation processes are analysed. Facilities, outbuildings, animals, surrounding areas and cultivated land are also taken into account. The research approaches the subject matter from the perspective of architectural, social and economic history and cultural anthropology.

Course of action

The two dissertations currently being written at BFH are devoted to the transformation of the villages and valleys on the edge of the Magadino Plain in Ticino, from which agriculture has all but disappeared, and the municipality of Adelboden (BE), which is now dominated by tourism. Each covers a period of approximately 200 years. The Swiss National Science Foundation team consists of a total of five researchers from a wide range of disciplines. Other topics include rural elites in Western Switzerland, and poverty, based on the analysis of day labourers’ houses in the Swiss Plateau. The period under investigation extends to the present and is thus highly relevant to today. The project team works closely with building researchers, family researchers, agricultural history researchers and local historical societies, and also involves the wider population through citizen science. The data that is collected will be made publicly available in a database.

Ein altes Holzhaus aus Adelboden, umringt von Bäumen. Vor dem Haus grasen fünf Kühe.
Adelbodner Holzhaus im Freilichtmuseum Ballenberg.
Tessiner Bauernhaus aus Cugnasco im Tessin.
Tessiner Bauernhaus aus Cugnasco im Tessin im Freilichtmuseum..