Deconstruction – for nature!

Deconstruction – for nature!

Project Status: 2014 – 2016

A lot of infrastructure in the Alps dilapidates due to a missing use, the absence of owners or an unclear legal status. The infrastructure built in the latter half of the 20th century consists of solidified, impregnated wood, and metal. A recent survey by mountain wilderness has shown that there are – just as an example – over 600 ski lifts without being used, left for decomposition.

The aim of this Mountain Wilderness Switzerland’s project is the deconstruction of a decayed hut in commune of Safien, the canton of Graubünden, in an appropriate way (professional recycling and waste disposal). It involves all the necessary work to deconstruct the building: Obtaining the permission to do so, inspecting the material used, organising their appropriate recycling or disposal (where not possible elsewhere), and – finally – the deconstruction. Hence, the local habitat is able to regenerate, biodiversity and the ecosystem will profit from our action in the long term. The spot once covered by the building will be restored to its natural state with long term benefits for plants, animals (and mountaineers).


The deconstruction is definite. Since no human influence could restore the spot’s natural state, the spot is left to restore itself. In this case we will gain long-term benefits for plants, animals (and mountaineers). The site is in a mountain area at 2450 meter above see level. During wintertime and even in spring there is a lot of snow lying on the ground. The vegetation is highly adapted to this short vegetation period. Thus, the empty place is now an excellent place for pioneer plants within this area and an opportunity to increase biodiversity. Therefore, the ecosystem will profit from our action in the long term. This is particularly important regarding to transfer the deconstruction idea to other, similar buildings.


The deconstruction was planned and implemented cooperatively with the local population, its authorities and the community of mountain wilderness. By letting both the local actors as well as members of Mountain Wilderness participate, an increased awareness of human impacts on our landscape was achieved. With the slogan «no human traces», an environmental friendly and respectful way of action in mountain communities was promoted. With the cooperation of the Swiss Army and its horses, we are able to manage the transportation of the construction material down from the mountain without any helicopter flights:

The project involves also public relations, sensitization and information. A factsheet will be written for concerned communes, and the public informed, with the aims to sensitize them and others for their responsibility to deconstruct abandoned buildings (unless they are of historical significance). The experiences gathered during the project – the different deconstruction steps as well as the costs – will hence be used as an example of Good Practice to support local authorities in similar cases.


The present project is part of Mountain Wilderness’ campaign «Deconstruction for wilderness» with the publication of a brochure on abandoned alpine infrastructure. One part of the publication will be an inventory in order to evaluate the number of abandoned facilities. The other part will focus on best practice cases of deconstruction. Based on the experiences from specific cases, guidelines and decision aids will be developed. A factsheet will be written to assist communes, owners or other participants in their deconstruction project. The deconstruction project on Safierberg should become the first successful example.

Mountain Wilderness would like to ask that those who construct infrastructures must set aside funds to deconstruct the building once it is no more in use. A lot of media work as well as an intense lobbying are necessary to achieve this. Mountain Wilderness is planning to gather specific funds for the deconstruction of already existing infrastructure without financial or personal possibilities – as we did in the case of the wooden hut on Safierberg. To become more active, mountain wilderness has to get more financial and personal possibilities.


Since the action was planned and took place with volunteers, the possibility of a future participation was communicated through different communities. Several interested people already contacted MW for a future participation in such a project. The distribution of the publication is crucial for any future implementation and motivation of authorities.