Graubünden Tourism

Around the alpine city

The Art Cosmos of Chur

Remarkable artworks can be found all over Chur, which even locals don't always know about. Thanks to city guide Monica Andreoli, we find out where they are and what they mean.

From Dario Brazerol
You can discover the first artwork by Christoph Rütimann right at the train station. (Photo: Dario Brazerol)

Chur. Or Ur-Chur. Maybe only CH. Or church? The letters line up over and over. What is that? Art. Where do you find it? In Chur, of course. The grey concrete facade at the train station is decked out haphazardly with the letters. Behind this is the creative spirit of well-known Graubünden artist: Christoph Rütimann. As with Rütimann, seemingly inconspicuousness gained meaning in Chur. This also applies to the city itself. The city reveals its greatest treasures in winding alleys but also in public places: the art in Chur.

Lotus flowers or sperm? Not Vital’s artwork is a talking point to this day. (Photo: Dario Brazerol)

Abstract works with a talking point

So, let us be joined by an expert from Chur Tourism, Monica Andreoli, in search of the works of art in the Alpine town. In the middle of the city, on the highly frequented Alexanderplatz, three white structures protrude their heads monumentally. ‘These are the lotus flowers from Not Vital’, explains Monica Andreoli. There was a long and fierce discussion in the city about what these three abstract works could be. The general consensus: sperm. ‘I've heard that’, says the city guide - and insists: ‘But if you take a closer look, you can see that the three structures are reminiscent of closed lotus flowers’.

A mouthpiece into the world outside – ‘Il transformatur’ is one of the best-kept secrets on the artistic tour (Photo: Dario Brazerol)

The work of Basel artist Michel Pfister seems similarly abstract, but much less prominently placed. ‘Il transformatur’ hangs in the courtyard of the building where Romanesque television and radio are produced. Smooth, almost organic, the chrome steel colossus winds through the inner courtyard at a height of several metres. Surprised to be able to examine such a structure almost privately away from the crowds, I try to recognise what it is. Is it a funnel? Or maybe a worm? No, a mouthpiece! ‘It's not that wrong’, says Monica Andreoli. ‘The sculpture should point to the communication within the building’.

Oldest city in Switzerland meets the Modern Day

Monica Andreoli quickly takes us out of the hustle and bustle and onto historic Poststrasse. Modern and antique merge here. Paving stones on the floor and filigree decorations on the walls are reminiscent of bygone times. Correct, Chur is considered to be the oldest city in Switzerland. ‘The Romans had settlements here and the old city wall was dated to the 13th century’, says the city guide. Recently, new parts of the city wall were exposed during construction work at the start of Poststrasse.

The ‘Orbiter’ on Postplatz watches over the people of Chur (Photo: Dario Brazerol)

Just a few metres away from the lost property office, a stilt walker dances at a dizzying height. The ‘Orbiter’, as it is called, takes a sceptical look at the hustle and bustle far below. And people look back, probably because of the blinding sun, with a similar, narrow look. Robert Indermaur's work has not been in this place for long. ‘The “Orbiter” is now guarding Postplatz,’ read the newspaper headline in “Südostschweiz” last summer. And indeed the figure seems to be watching everyone with eyes of Argus.

In the middle of Chur’s old town, Arcasplatz is reminiscent of bygone times (Photo: Dario Brazerol)

What does Martin Luther have to do with Chur?

He seems to follow us with his gaze as we venture into the depths of the old town - a part of town you can feel the past. Monica Andreoli explains the story behind the ‘embroidered’ wall decorations and raves about the baroque interior of the district court. At the idyllic Arcasplatz with its colourful houses, she lets us linger to enjoy the view. Time that locals like me, unfortunately, take far too rarely. Only now am I aware of the beauty of this place. Time seems to have stopped here. If you close your eyes, you can almost hear the mail coaches rolling over the paving stones and the market women negotiating their business.

‘The fact that Chur has a long history is also shown by the fact that the city can be found in our everyday language’, says Monica Andreoli. The word “gibberish” is said to have been used by Martin Luther for 'Welsch der Churer', i.e. Chur German.’ Even if researchers are not quite sure about the origin of the word 'Kauderwelsch': for me as a Churer, the case is now clear.

Soft touches on raw stone – the ‘big woman’ moves Monica Andreoli. (Photo: Dario Brazerol)

Small hurdles to the ‘big woman’

‘Now I want to show you my favourite work’, says our city guide and brings us back to the present. Quietly located and almost overlooked, the sculpture stands on a green area beyond Poststrasse. ‘We really must look closer at that now’, asserts our city guide, and hesitates when she sees an unpleasant sight. ‘No! What's that about?’ Green work is currently being carried out in the small park. A red tape stops us from entering. ‘It doesn't matter now - we have to get closer’, she says, jumping skilfully over the belt. In the middle of the park she stands: the ‘big woman’, a stone sculpture whose shape is based on the female form. Monica Andreoli gently strokes the stony skin of the plump lady. Her eyes shine as she talks about the symbolism of Mother Earth.

City guide Monica Andreoli leads those curious about art to numerous works. (Photo: Dario Brazerol)

At the end of the almost two-hour tour, we come back to the place where our tour started: trains rush in and out in the background. Passers-by appear under Christoph Rütimanns Chur or Ur-Chur or just CH up and down. As a farewell, Monica Andreoli would like send us on the way with one more thing: ‘Always remember, “La vita è anche un’arte”’. Life is also an art. And art lives in Chur.

Dario Brazerol
Dario Brazerol

Dario Brazerol studied Journalism and organisational communication at Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Winterthur.

 

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