Virtually unchanged from the outside, inside the free-standing ‘cabins’ have been modernized in Cheseaux’s signature clean style, with smooth concrete floors and spruce wood walls. “I quickly realized that the laws did not allow me to transform the buildings because they were in an agricultural zone. So, I decided to save the heritage from ruin by using the philosophy of our ancestors, that is i.e. by moving them [to the pocket-sized village of La Forclaz, which is outside the agricultural zone]he told me. During the Little Ice Age (14th to 19th century), Swiss farmers frequently dismantled their barns and rebuilt them away from the advancing glaciers.
Few have traveled the distance traveled by Nikola Kapp’s 150-year-old stilt barn. Nestled in the back garden of the former Zermatt banker’s house is a 4.5mx5m gadi transplanted from the village of Eisten to the nearby Saas Valley. “We had to helicopter everything in,” she told me, pointing to the original wooden crucifix still affixed to the larch facade. “We numbered each piece of wood and even used some of the authentic nails,” she explained of the painstaking four-month restoration project undertaken in 2008. A labor of love, her Heidi-esque interior made of Kalu Gädi two floors. an instant hit on Airbnb. “My heart opens when I see the Matterhorn,” Kapp said of the view framed by a gingham curtain from the tangled-toothed peak.
My own gaze was drawn to the sun-scorched barns on stilts in the foreground. Although dwarfed by the snowy mountain, they still stand centuries later and hopefully for many centuries to come.
Heritage architecture is a BBC Travel series that explores the world’s most interesting and unusual buildings that define a place through their aesthetic beauty and inventive ways of adapting to local environments.
Join over three million BBC Travel fans by liking us on Facebookor follow us on Twitter and instagram.
If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter called “The Essential List”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Worklife and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.