Every year, the Schweizer Heimatschutz awards the Wakker Prize to political municipalities that can demonstrate special achievements in terms of townscape and settlement development. This includes, in particular, the promotion of design quality in new buildings, respectful treatment of historic buildings and exemplary local planning that takes environmental concerns into account.
This award was first presented in 1972 on the basis of a bequest from the Geneva businessman Henri-Louis Wakker to the Swiss Heritage Society. Since then, further legacies have been received, thanks to which the Swiss Heritage Society is still able to award the prize today.
Verein Birsstadt is the 2024 award winner
In 2024, this prestigious prize will go to the Verein Birsstadt, a partnership of the municipalities of Aesch, Arlesheim, Birsfelden, Dornach, Duggingen, Grellingen, Muttenz, Münchenstein, Pfeffingen and Reinach. The association shows that challenges in agglomerations can be better solved through cross-municipal and cross-cantonal cooperation. Joint action promotes building culture from large-scale planning to the actual construction project. On its website, Schweizer Heimatschutz writes about the award to the association: “Together, the ten municipalities of the Birsstadt association are reclaiming their uncoordinated landscape in the Basel agglomeration. Successful cross-municipal and cross-cantonal cooperation forms the basis for repairing the area. Under the umbrella of an association, the industrial past is being further developed, the proud architectural heritage enriched and the natural environment strengthened.”
The turbulent development in the 20th century had a strong influence on the landscape in the Birs Valley, the report continues. “In the valley, which was once characterised by agriculture and where industrial and commercial enterprises began to settle in the 19th century, settlements continued to spread and highways cut through the area. The Birstal thus developed into an important part of the Basel metropolitan area – an agglomeration landscape with major challenges and equally great opportunities for further development.”
After the turn of the millennium, the municipalities came to the realisation that positive changes could only be brought about by working together in response to this negative development in the agglomeration, according to the Heritage Society. Pioneering projects between several municipalities, such as the “Birspark Landschaft”, clearly demonstrated the potential for greater cooperation. The founding of the Verein Birsstadt in 2018 has finally created a solid framework for coordinating spatial development.
The fact that the ten municipalities from two cantons jointly finance the association and that the municipal presidents form the board illustrates the willingness to work together. In the association, overarching strategies in the areas of landscape, settlement, mobility and climate adaptation are negotiated, developed and jointly represented to the outside world. At the same time, the regular exchange of ideas strengthens the transfer of knowledge between the municipalities.
According to the Schweizer Heimatschutz, three key elements have contributed to the successful repair of the agglomeration area: the enhancement of the natural and living space along the Birs, the careful further development of the important industrial sites and the safeguarding and strengthening of the rich architectural heritage.
Award ceremony at the Wakker Prize Festival 2024
On Saturday, 22 June 2024, the Wakkerpreisfest 2024 will take place on the Domplatz in Arlesheim. This is where the Schweizer Heimatschutz will officially present the prize to the Verein Birsstadt. Afterwards, the entire Birsstadt population is invited to celebrate this joyous occasion with a regional entertainment programme.