Portrait History

History and architecture

Zimmerwald Observatory

Waldhof 102, Zimmerwald

On the Längenberg, above the church of Zimmerwald, there is a university building immediately adjacent to Weiler Waldhof that although it does not boast any architectural riches is nevertheless always worth a visit with impressive constructions in an atmospheric location.


In 1922, the Institute of Astronomy founded one year previously commenced its astronomical observations in the new observatory on Muesmattstrasse. The problem appears soon to have arisen that viewing in the city itself was restricted due to air pollution, the low-lying location and probably even back then scattered light. The high-altitude location in Zimmerwald was an ideal choice for constructing a new observatory close to the city that was free from these influences. The observatory was moved into in 1956. In 1976 the compact small extension for the second dome with the ZIMLAT telescope was constructed.

Kuppel und Teleskop

Like many buildings with formal aspects that are strongly influenced by technical requirements, the Zimmerwald observatory exudes a strong appeal; in aesthetic terms one would talk of a sublime impact emanating from the domes. The buildings themselves that serve to house the sensitive instruments and as service buildings are very barren and with the long connecting structure in the shape of an open arcade are reminiscent of a vacation home that has aged in silence. It is with flair that the anonymous architect has equipped the observatory with a flying roof (typical of the 1950s) and a round window that literally sums up the monumental pathos of the construction task – the proximity to the stars.