Les Arts Gstaad Foundation to be dissolved

Tue, 10. Sep. 2019
The ambitious Les Arts Gstaad concert hall will not be realised (Archive AvS)

The board of trustees for the Les Arts Gstaad Foundation decided to dissolve the foundation at a meeting on 24 July.

Two years ago, Les Arts Gstaad faced an amber light when the construction project went public for the second time. In the meantime, a lot has happened. The Les Arts Gstaad Foundation wasn’t able to secure the total funding needed to start the building work and has now announced that it will be dissolving. The Gstaad Menuhin Festival & Academy (GMF) regrets this decision. They noted that the Gstaad Concert Hall Foundation (in the course of formation), lead by Marcel Bach, took over the project and developed it further one and a half years ago. This attempt has also now sadly failed, as GMF board member Aldo Kropf writes in a press release. The GMF board of directors now will have to deal with future infrastructural issues.

The Les Arts Gstaad adventure began 14 years ago: friends met to see if a concert hall could be built in Gstaad to meet the needs of the world's best orchestras and soloists. The answer to this question quickly became clear. Gstaad needs a concert hall, the tent isn’t enough in the long term and the Saanen churches get too overcrowded. New inspiration is needed to extend the winter and summer seasons.

Les Arts Gstaad was founded around a concept including not only music, but also art exhibitions, meetings and education opportunities. The concept revealed the spatial requirements, premises profile and basis for a business plan. Potential donors were enthusiastic and, with their active participation in the process, this encouraged the initiators to implement the plans. So, the Les Arts Gstaad Foundation was born.

More than 30 of Europe's best-known architects were invited to tender and 23 proposals were received. At the start of 2010, a select jury unanimously chose Rudy Ricciotti's project as the one to go ahead. In the years that followed, the project was developed to be ready for approval and funds were collected – the goal being to finance the whole project through private funds as far as possible.

Thereafter, the initiators along with the Foundation Council President, J. Markus Kappeler, managed to receive promises of funds totalling more than CHF 70 million, mostly from private donors. These funds were pledged to build a cultural and meeting centre with a state-of-the-art concert hall in Gstaad. However, financing the total construction cost of an estimated 120 million francs was not to be, despite intensive efforts.

Since a new sponsoring body couldn’t secure the necessary financial resources for a scaled-down project, the foundation has now reached the point of handing the project over to any other non-profit tax-exempt organisation that wishes to take it on. Until the foundation has been dissolved, the application to obtain a superstructure and building permit is still going ahead. Up to the point of liquidation, the project rights remain with the Les Arts Gstaad Foundation. The foundation will try to find a successor and a solution up to the point of liquidation.

Economics director Christoph Ammann regrets that the work on this innovative flagship project has had to be put on hold. "The canton could still back the project if other initiators were to take up the idea again."

J. Markus Kappeler also regrets the liquidation of the foundation. Nevertheless, he’s optimistic: “The project for a new cultural and meeting centre in Gstaad won’t be allowed to wither on the vine as Gstaad needs new incentives to extend the seasonal programmes. Some of our funders are also willing to continue their involvement. Perhaps new bodies will be able to design the project so work can still go ahead under new leadership, possibly at a different location.”

The mayor of Saanen, Toni von Grünigen, has been very impressed by the foundation's commitment: “The enthusiasm shown by the foundation and the people involved has been truly extraordinary. They've come a long way.” The entire municipal council would like to thank everyone in the foundation board for their efforts over recent years. The municipality also thanks all the private sponsors who’ve provided the project with considerable financial backing for the planning process and have assured their support, especially for building the cultural and meeting centre. This, according to von Grünigen, shows the solidarity of the local population with the region, as well as the support from people all over the world.

If the Les Arts project is taken over by a new managing body and new proposals for a state-of-the-art concert hall or multipurpose hall are received, the municipality will be open to new organising bodies.

Based on AvS/Les Arts Gstaad Foundation/Blanca Burri
Translated by Justine Hewson

Statement by the Gstaad Menuhin Festival

At their meeting of 28th August 2019, the board of directors of the Gstaad Menuhin Festival & Academy AG noted with regret that the Les Arts Gstaad Foundation would be liquidated and that the many years of hard work to implement the ambitious project behind the Gstaad railway station will be put on hold.

The board thanks the initiators, in particular, the president of the foundation council J. Markus Kappeler and his colleagues on the board of trustees for their professional work and long-lasting support. He also thanked the private donors and public sector for the financial support already pledged and provided. The Gstaad Concert Hall Foundation (in the course of formation) lead by Marcel Bach also received thanks for taking over and developing the project one and a half years ago. The board sincerely regrets that this new sponsoring body wasn’t successful in their mission.

The Gstaad Menuhin Festival & Academy AG board of directors has assured the Les Arts Gstaad Foundation’s board and the management of the Gstaad Concert Hall Foundation (in the course of formation) that, if the project were to come to fruition, the Festival and the Academy would collaborate and act as one of the tenants, in particular helping to draw up a suitable spatial plan.

After being made aware of the decision to dissolve the Les Arts Gstaad Foundation and to suspend the work of the Gstaad Concert Hall Foundation, the Gstaad Menuhin Festival & Academy AG board of directors will have to deal promptly and thoroughly with future questions concerning the infrastructure although the vast majority of concerts have been taking place in the acoustically brilliant and very popular regional churches for 63 years. This will certainly continue and the medium-term future of the concerts in the Gstaad festival tent isn’t threatened by the abolition the plans made by Les Arts Gstaad.

Nevertheless, the desire to improve the quality of concerts with large orchestras and concertante operatic performances for artists and visitors lives on. It remains to be seen whether this can be achieved by carrying on with the tent concerts through a larger, structurally improved concert tent or at least, in the medium term, a suitable, affordable and politically viable building.

The Gstaad Menuhin Festival & Academy AG board of directors currently believes that they’re unable to independently plan a new "Concert Hall" project. However, they openly welcome any valuable information and support initiatives, which will be gratefully received.

Based on AvS/Gstaad Menuhin Festival
Translated by Justine Hewson



Sorry but: good riddance! See also the old article "Les Arts Gstaad : The People’s Choice?" by Alexis Munier and the critical but constructive comments that still apply - plublished March 2014 (use the wayback machine)
Thank you ! It was the wrong place, the wrong architectural project for a mountain village, the wrong size, the wrong budget, the wrong long term cost...

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