Steinhausen, 29.06.2020

Civil service workers install around 100 tons of quarry stones

Civil service workers have created a work of art on the Höfenstrasse: With the construction of a dry stone wall, Steinhausen is makings a special contribution to the design of the transition zone that is nature-friendly and brings added value.

The design of measures at the transition from the settlement area to the agricultural zone are often given little attention. But there are excellent opportunities to give these important areas a face, as the municipality of Steinhausen is currently showing with a remarkable project. It specifically concerns the Höfenstrasse, which exactly marks the border between the construction and agricultural zones. A dry stone wall with a length of about 100 metres now stands there, neatly stacked. It runs along the road edge below the Höfen group of houses until just before the junction with the Albisstrasse.

The impulse originally came from landowner Beda Schlumpf, who had been looking for a design solution for his overgrown border area, and, after consultation with the municipality, finally came up with the idea of a dry stone wall following the old tradition of craftsmanship.

Expertise that has almost become lost
From a survey conducted in the municipality, the Steinhausen construction manager Markus Amhof knew that the population is open to design solutions that are close to nature. "That's why I hope that our example will set a precedent here," he says, and turn his gaze to the newly completed wall along the road, which is often frequented by walkers and cyclists. Every stone, no matter what shape or size, sits perfectly and firmly, as if it had been tailored for its position. Arranging a dry stone wall so perfectly takes more than the simple ambition of placing a few loose chunks on top of each other. Sound expertise is indispensable – it’s not for nothing that this is considered as a  centuries-old tradition of elaborate craftsmanship.

Freshly completed: the 100-metre-long dry stone wall on the Höfenstrasse.
From left to right: Project manager Stefan Rey, the Zug construction manager Florian Weber and property owner Beda Schlumpf.

And precisely that was the challenge at the beginning: who has the necessary knowledge? The Swiss Environmental Foundation found the necessary skills. From the mid-1990s onwards, the foundation has been employing this architecture, which had become almost forgotten in Switzerland until then. Under professional guidance from the foundation, twelve civil service workers (Zivildienstler) installed around 100 tons of quartz sandstone from a quarry near Alpnach OW on the Höfenstrasse in Steinhausen within just three weeks. "Dry stone walls have only been a topic in the canton of Zug again for about five years now," says Stefan Rey, project manager at the Canton of Zug. He considers them to be a very suitable design option for border areas. "And last but not least, masonry like this, which is very close to nature, brings a clear added value – on the one hand for the population and on the other hand for the fauna. Numerous animals find a protective habitat in and behind the wall."

The timetable was ambitious: the decision for the wall was only made at the end of 2019. It had to be completed before the planned refurbishment of the Höfenstrasse begins this June, however. The construction approval application went through quickly and without hurdles, and the construction of the wall began on 2 June. After three weeks, the construction - which has to be considered as almost a work of art -  was completed, and a gentle greening is planned above the wall in the coming winter. In the course of the planning, landowner Beda Schlumpf has given the municipality about half a metre of his border free of charge, so that the rather narrow road has become wider and less dangerous at this sloping location.

Florian Weber, Head of Construction in Zug, was enthusiastic about the result and expressed his gratitude to all those involved.