Swiss Structures with Philipp Heer

Philipp Heer lives in Zurich, Switzerland. As a child, he dreamt of becoming an architect but, in his own words, he was (and still is) too bad at maths. He now works for an insurance company but spends his free time photographing the best and most beautiful structures to be found in his homeland.

For Philipp, Swiss architectural style is all about function and simplicity. “It’s sober, unobtrusive and no-nonsense, always built to a very high specification.” The influence of Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier (who features on the ten franc banknote) is everywhere, Philipp tells us.

Le Corbusier is credited as a founding father of modern architecture. His buildings combine functionalism with bold, imposing design. Whilst there aren’t actually many Le Corbusier structures in Switzerland, he provided huge inspiration for a whole generation of the country’s architects.

The bold lines, unique angles and bright pops of colour typical of Le Corbusier’s work are captured time and again by Philipp’s camera lens. From UNESCO World Heritage sites to social housing projects, the greenery of the Garden Tower to the grey concrete of a multi-storey carpark, Philipp always manages to find a unique and beautiful view of whatever architecture he comes across.

Here Philipp shares a few of his favourite Swiss buildings with us:


This is an incineration and heating power plant in Giubiasco, designed by Studio Vacchini Architects. I love the brutal industrial look. I also love that the giant grid structure has a function – it reduces noise reflection from a nearby motorway.

The Library of the Institute of Law

This interior can be found within the University of Zurich and was designed by Santiago Calatrava. He’s not known for his sober design but he’s lived and worked for many decades in Zurich and I think you can see that in this building. The library is a bit of a hidden treasure. It’s built within the inner courtyard of a much older building so it’s only inside that you get to see its overwhelming beauty.

Bündner Kunstmuseum

This art museum in Chur was designed by Barozzi/Veiga Architects. It houses works by Swiss artists from the 18th century to the present day. Despite being designed by a Spanish company, this building epitomises what I think of when trying to describe typical Swiss architecture. Straight lines, great details, but all in all, very inconspicuous.

Messe Basel

Located in Basel, Messe Basel is a huge building containing exhibition space, offices, apartments, shops and restaurants. Created by Herzog & de Meuron, this was actually a redesign of an existing building. The big “eye” in the centre of the City Lounge public space is incredible to photograph – I can’t resist taking a few shots every time I’m in Basel. Apparently the architects called it “Fenster zum Himmel” which translates as “Window to Heaven”.

Thanks to Philipp for sharing his incredible architectural photography with us. Don’t forget to check out more of his images over on Instagram.