Weekend Cabin: Leis, Switzerland


January: “We’re in the midst of a snowstorm; it’s raging like they used to do when we were children. All the houses are white, the snow has even blown onto the windows; we can’t see out any more. We are in a fairy house, basking in the warmth and playing with our grandchildren. Tomorrow we’re going out for a walk with snowshoes and we’ll make a snowman with the children.” — Annalisa Zumthor

“Annalisa had always dreamed of living in a house built of wood. Whenever she talked to me about it, in my mind’s eye I saw an intimate home in the mountains. Clearly she was describing a very personal vision. Was she thinking of the way Swiss mountain pine smells, a crackling fire in the living room stove, the special warmth of wood?” — Peter Zumthor

April: “It’s rainy today; the fire in the stove is burning brightly. The house enfolds me in its lustrous timber walls with their fine scent of wood. It’s doing me good to be in Leis. I am just sitting here, quite still, looking. Beguilingly beautiful scenes outside the huge windows: mist, scurrying snowflakes, then rain again, turbulent clouds, a never-ending drama.” — Annalisa

“I don’t recall exactly what she said but I still have the feeling that there was something special about the house she described, something you only find in houses made of solid timber. And now that house has been built. Light and bright in the hamlet of Leis with its age-blackened dwellings. We built another house next to it at the same time, a smaller sibling: two homes from the same family.” — Peter

August: “Through the small window I hear someone sawing wood, filling water into a bucket. A bell is ringing
in the chapel below the house. I can smell freshly mown grass in the air. Lower down the mountainside
Leis’s oldest inhabitant is sitting on a little rise, looking at the landscape through pocket binoculars.” — Annalisa

“Leis, which is situated 1,526 m above sea level, is the highest settlement occupied all year round in the community of Vals. The people of Vals originally spoke Romansh. In the late Middle Ages German speaking Walsers settled in this area and cleared the trees from the mountainside terraces sometime around 1300, having presumably found their way here via the Misox. In Mesocco, a small municipality in the Misox, there is a neighborhood called Leis.” — Peter

September: “Last night it rained, but the mist is lifting again now. The hay in the meadows around Leis has all been cut. The mountainsides have a joyous feel, and you can already see autumn crocuses everywhere. In my garden there’s a golden sunflower.” — Annalisa

“Vals has good skiing and snowboarding. There is a gondola lift from the village to Bergstation Gadastatt, which lies 1,800 m above sea level and has a ski and snowboard school, a beginners lift for children, and a restaurant. Tow lifts run from Gadastatt to just below the 3,000 m peak of the Dachberg. In normal snow conditions skiers and snowboarders can travel right down to the door of their vacation home in Leis; in good conditions they can even continue on down into the valley. Because Vals is far enough away from the main skiing centers and has no through-traffic as such, there are no jostling crowds on the slopes of the Dachberg and barely any waiting times for the lifts.” — Peter

The Timber Houses at Leis can be rented on a weekly basis. Cost begins at $3,800 a week; the Unterhus sleeps four to five, the Türmlihus sleeps four. For more information, contact Zumthor Ferienhäuser at zumthorferienhaeuser.ch/en/buchung-und-auskunft/

Architect: Peter and Annalisa Zumthor

Weekend Cabin isn’t necessarily about the weekend, or cabins. It’s about the longing for a sense of place, for shelter set in a landscape…for something that speaks to refuge and distance from the everyday. Nostalgic and wistful, it’s about how people create structure in ways to consider the earth and sky and their place in them. It’s not concerned with ownership or real estate, but what people build to fulfill their dreams of escape. The very time-shortened notion of “weekend” reminds that it’s a temporary respite.

{ One comment…read it below or write one }

  • acinpdx

    zumthor’s work is f’ing gorgeous
    the poetic prose is not unfitting or self-important when the building, spaces & materials back it all up

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