It is hard to imagine Bellwald now without The Old Bellwald Foundation. Thanks to the support of the population, the big tasks are a little easier to accomplish.
Bellwald changed from a mountain farming village to a tourist resort, particularly during the 1960s and 70s. This relatively rapid change destroyed many valuable old structures. Agricultural buildings lost their original function and were altered or converted into holiday homes.
Some of these changes and conversions were poorly executed. Old alleys were levelled, the traditional walls and bushes along these paths were removed, and irrigation canals and streams were contained in pipework. All these measures have had a lasting effect on the village of Bellwald and its hamlets.
That's why a group of like-minded people came together in 1983 and founded the Old Bellwald Foundation. The aim of the foundation was to preserve old buildings, to preserve farm buildings in their original form in the best possible way and to ensure that conversions were carried out with the necessary care and consideration.
These tasks turned out to be extremely difficult, as they came in the middle of the expansion and development phase of Bellwald as a holiday resort. Any extension of a stable, a barn or a store and any enclosing of a stream or levelling of a path were seen as signs of progress and positive change. People were happy to give away the "old rubbish", as it was seen at the time, to the "gypsies". Some pieces of furniture are now restored and found in opulent apartments.
Any influence on building projects was seen as unwelcome interference and the short-term material interests of the individual building owners were prioritised. Despite various setbacks, the foundation became more and more important and gained support from both the local population and from visitors to the area.
Due to its rural past, Bellwald is an extremely interesting village. Residential buildings coupled with old agricultural buildings are cultural witnesses of bygone days and radiate warmth and security. The old alleys and squares convey an image of harmony and peace. The many widely-scattered stables and huts on the mountainside around Bellwald enrich the cultural environment from the Lamma to the Finsteraarhorn. Many of these buildings have fallen victim to the ravages of time, including around three dozen buildings on the Alpe Richinen, a barn and hut in Aspi as well as several stables and huts at Eggebiel.
The special architecture is an important asset to tourism in the Bellwald holiday resort. This is also evident from the great interest shown by our guests in these witnesses to days gone by: an interest that should flatter Bellwald inhabitats - because it is also an interest in us and in our roots. This interest will continue to grow, because intangible values such as culture and warmth are becoming increasingly important.
The work of the Foundation must therefore be seen holistically. Actions such as financial assistance in removing the old tin roofs were therefore just one small step. The main interest was in the object as a whole, taking into account its location
It is by no means the intention of those involved to turn Bellwald and its hamlets into a large-scale museum. The aim is rather to unite past, present and future in such a way that a living village remains - a reverse of the development that has unfortunately taken place in recent decades. Helped along by various conversions within the village, the actual village area has been seriously devalued as a place to live, since these buildings are only used as second homes and are thus empty for most of the year. We are therefore glad that artbellwald.ch is breathing life back into the old Mättelti part of the village with the artists' studio in the Kirchenstadel.
The purpose of the Old Bellwald Foundation is not only to preserve the old, but rather to create the new and the living without destroying the old. The creation and maintenance of quality housing and quality of life will lead to long-term success.
Bellwald covers a large municipal area and is heavily populated. This overdevelopment is a result of Bellwald's economic past. In addition to many traditions and idiosyncrasies, a complex network of paths and alleys and an ingenious system of irrigation were created.
These alleys and paths have often been converted into building site access roads. The irrigation systems were neglected, and streams were increasingly piped through building areas. As a result, the traditional picture of areas in which people live has been increasingly spoiled. Who knows anything about the Gibuweg, for example?Today it is no longer possible, nor does it make sense to restore all these old structures. In some areas, however, it is highly desirable that alleyways be restored and that streams and other waterways can flow freely again or at least be no longer neglected or enclosed.