Glaciers do polarize- because they tell stories of ancient times. They form landscapes, characterize and change them, for their age only they‘re already very special and faszinating. The „eternal Ice“ makes thousands of visitors and tourists come to the „cold“ alpine mountains annually. Simultaneously you see it more and more in their appearence: Nothing is made to be eternal. Since middle of the 19th century a worldwide glacier decrease is observable.
This process is called „glacier melt“ and has nothing to do with the usual and typical annual glacier melt in mountains and high positioned areas during springtime. This „glacier melt“ has its consequences: the increasing sea level as well as water shortage (Glaciers as main sweetwater reservoirs of numerous cities) and floods, known as „glacier lake outburst floods“, are seriours consequences of the global warming related glacier melt. The great majority of all glaciers worldwide lost a large part of its masses in last decades.
The swiss alps have lost one-third of their surface in the last 150 years. Alarming facts and also one reason for the interrior designer Matthias Sütterlin, to deal with this topic in his thesis. He designed ferner.Welten, a glaciological Center at the Rhône Glacier (Kanton Wallis/Switzerland). The scientific debate that deals with dangers, risks and benefits of glacier ice is called Glaciology. In Switzerland this special field developed in the 19th century, at that time known as „Gletscherkunde“. In times of climate changing it becomes more and more important scientifically as well as socially.
The center shall offer the visitors an impression of the beauty and fascination of glaciers and shall depth the perception for nature that surrounds us, but also take concrete comments on current and future climate conditions. The building complex is not only cover and space for exhibition, but is also considerably to impart knowledge. The visitors have here the possibility and a chance to really experience, what dangers and risks the climate change contains. In springtime, for example, the melt water rises above the shore of the Rhone and floods the inner courtyard of the building.
Because climate and environmental protection takes mainly place at political and scientifical level, the Center for Glaciology provides a space for education, discussion and direct experiences. Conferences and meetings can take place here, and also guided excursions for experts and new commers arround glaciological topics. “Ferner.Welten“ is a platform for researchers, Students, Ph.D. students and interested people in order to exchange information around geoscience.
At the inside the building bodies are summarised by an embracing route – that is faced away from the riverside – and, here as well, an organic formation out of Ramps, bridges and accessible roof areas. The individual building bodies are assigned to concrete functions. Between them there are open spaces both indoors and outdoors developed. In addition to an exhibition space – that is directly led into the cafeteria fluently – it includes an auditorium, a meeting- and training room, a shop and an administration area.
Location: Rhône Glacier, Switzerland
Student: Matthias Sütterlin
University: RheinMain University of Applied Sciences in Wiesbaden, Germany
Article by Marco Rinaldi