An epic life – an emblematic building: Robert Steffen and the Gstaad Palace

Tue, 15. Jan. 2019

Leaving Montreux and climbing the mountains by MOB you feel joy and a happiness as the train heads towards the Saanenland. You dream of snowy winter landscapes or green hills sprinkled with colourful flowers.

However, it has not always been that idyllic. Before the times of modern comforts, people had to fight against primitive nature and harsh weather conditions. Tradition has it that they have always had a fighting spirit. It must have taken persistence, passion and time for entire generations to dominate the elements and finally transform them into something familiar and endearing – a homey place.

The Saanenland is a miracle of human resilience and the fruit of continuous efforts. Throughout the ages its people integrated with and absorbed the beauty of nature and evolved a culture that reflects it in their physical features and manners.

Robert Steffen’s story
In the early 1900s, Robert Steffen (1878-1923) felt inspired by the area’s extraordinary beauty. His adventurous and progressive mind dreamed of a monumental building that could leave its mark on Gstaad and the Saanenland. Meanwhile, the train between Montreux and Zweisimmen had been built and arrived in Gstaad, providing the necessary infrastructure for tourism. He eventually took the decision to pursue the project to which he was to dedicate all his energy and financial resources.

As the Palace was being built, WWI had begun, which dramatically changd the face of Europe. Meanwhile, Steffen was fighting his own battle, struggling against hardships and financial difficulties. Although he went bankrupt, he persevered in securing loans to conclude his masterpiece. The end of WWI finally saw Steffen’s dream accomplished but his health had already deteriorated and though only in his mid-40s he died.

Robert Steffen’s legacy
Today, 100 years later, we enjoy one of the most beautiful buildings in Europe, which is admired by the entire world. Needless to say it’s not only an emblem of our area but also a Swiss and European landmark. As a hotel, it is owned and managed perfectly by a well-known Gstaad family.

I was fortunate to first know it when I was visiting with my parents decades ago. Recently, the idea of a feature film on the adventurous life of Robert Steffen and his Gstaad Palace miracle has been taking shape in my mind. The story has it all: a great location as a backdrop, an inventive and adventurous protagonist who struggled but persevered – and died early.

My friends Serbian film director Emir Kusturica and the Italian actress Monica Belucci are enthusiastic about the idea and encouraged me to come up with a film script. I am therefore looking for a talented writer, who would like to be part of this project and could write a script for this film.

Yannis Siatopoulos

Script writer competition open

We are looking for a talented writer who wants to be part of this project by writing a film script on the story of Robert Steffen and the Gstaad Palace. Historical sources, guidance and assistance will be provided. If you are interested send your contact details to



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Irene Kung's artistic career led her via graphic design, painting, etching and sculpture to photography, which she took up in 2006. She has achieved international fame and recognition with her unique style and most recently won the pitch for an art edition of the new Porsche 911.