At the initiative of Alexandre Seiler, a pioneer in the modern hotel industry, the Riffelalp Hotel, which at that time had 150 beds, opened its doors in July 1884 above Zermatt at an altitude of 2,227 meters. Many illustrious guests from Switzerland and abroad have stayed there: poets, musicians, princes, industrialists and statesmen. All of them succumbed to the charm of an exceptional mountain hotel with a unique view of the Matterhorn towering above at 4,478 meters. In 1898, after construction of second building, the hotel had 280 rooms – a record that remains unbroken to this day. he fire that devastated the hotel in February 1961 spared only the two buildings next to the chapel.
For some time now, the RIBAG (Riffelalp Immobilien- und Baubetriebs AG = Riffelalp Real Estate and Construction Company) has harbored the idea of rebuilding the hotel and reviving what must certainly be recognized as the great age of the Swiss hotel industry. A joint venture was created in 1997 between Seiler Hotels Zermatt AG and the Sandoz Family Foundation: close ties had always existed between Edouard-Marcel Sandoz (and later the Foundation) and Zermatt, where the sculptor took advantage of his stays there to gather in the Viège the stones from which he created some of his most outstanding works. he Foundation is the almost exclusive shareholder of RIBAG, which has now become Riffelalp Resort SA, and has become directly involved in the design and execution of this large-scale hotel project; it has also provided the project with the necessary financing.
After almost three years of work, made especially difficult by the altitude and transport problems, the hotel opened its doors on 1 December 2000 under the name of the Riffelalp Resort 2222m. After expansion in 2005, it now has 140 beds (65 rooms, five suites, two apartments) and offers refined and sophisticated comfort. In addition to two restaurants, two terraces and a typical vault, the hotel has a cinema, a bowling alley, a billiards room, a wellness and fitness centre with indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and a concert hall in the old English chapel. Riffelalp is regularly cited in the top rank of Swiss and international classifications, and is now one of the key addresses in the Alps, as well as being one of the prestigious “Leading Small Hotels of the World”.
With its commitment to Riffelalp, the Sandoz Family Foundation has actively contributed to reviving a witness to the economic history of Switzerland in one of the country’s most beautiful settings. For the Foundation, resurrecting the hotel is part of its effort to promote a form of hotel business stressing personalized service able to respond to the demands of an exceptional site and a particularly discriminating clientele. he project is also an expression of the essential values of tradition and modernity, of contemporary comfort allied with the art of hospitality and conviviality, to which the Foundation attaches particular importance.
The Foundation’s hotel activity is testimony to its spirit of enterprise and initiative, and to its desire to occupy a lasting place in the market for projects conceived as long-term investments.
The Hotel Beau-Rivage Palace***** in Lausanne is one of the most prestigious luxury hotels of Europe and the world. Located in Ouchy on the shores of Lake Geneva, it has been classed as one of the 50 best hotels in the world by the American Association of Travel Editors and the Légion d'Honneur du Voyage, and is regularly ranked among the top hotels in Switzerland by several specialized publications.
Major renovation has been carried out at the initiative of the Sandoz Family Foundation starting in 1993. As part of the program of complete rehabilitation, architectural treasures of the past have been faithfully restored in the vast spaces of the ground floor as well as in the hotel’s 170 rooms (including 24 suites). It is not for nothing that in 1999 the Beau-Rivage Palace was designated the historic hotel of the year by the Swiss national section of the International Council on Monuments and Sites ICOMOS.
The project includes the creation of a spa and the transformation of the core of the hotel, and will finish in 2010 with the rehabilitation of the rotunda and the terrace.
On the 150th anniversary of the hotel’s construction in 2009 a magnificent 440-page book was published by InFolio under the direction of Nadja Maillard detailing the hotel’s construction and its various transformations, its décor, its guests and the events that have taken place there. Separate chapters are devoted to the history of the site, travel, tourism, the hotel’s architecture and the gardens. Photographs and documents drawn from archives provide outstanding illustrations, and four fictional accounts show the imaginary dimension of the hotel.
The Beau-Rivage Palace is under the same management as an adjacent establishment, the Hotel Angleterre & Residence (category ****), which benefits from the infrastructure of its neighbor and the synergy resulting from their integration. The completion of renovation work on the Angleterre in 2002 marked a new phase in the Sandoz Family Foundation’s efforts to maintain the unique landscape of the port of Ouchy. Built in 1775, with its direct access to Lake Geneva the hotel is an integral part of the image of that part of town. Architects Danilo Mondada and Christophe Amsler worked in close cooperation with historians and archaeologists, and have succeeded preserving or recreating the original building together with the inimitable atmosphere of the age, while meeting the requirements of modern, efficient and future-oriented hotel service.
The Sandoz Family Foundation holds a large majority of the share capital of Beau-Rivage Palace SA. It has made an unreserved commitment to renovating the hotel complex, and today that commitment has assured the Beau-Rivage Palace an excellent position for the future, in particular vis-à-vis international competition.
For the occasion of the Swiss national exposition in 2002 (Expo.02), the Sandoz Family Foundation built a 40-room five-star hotel in Neuchâtel, consisting of bungalows built on piles over the lake.
The wooden elements for the construction of the hotel were designed by Lausanne architect Kurt Hofmann and were made in cooperation with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. The hotel included a sophisticated automation system, and most of the hotel staff came from the Lausanne Hotel School.
At Expo.02, the Foundation wanted to make its contribution to the idea that Switzerland can do even better in one of the things at which it is particularly good, the hotel business. While having its ups and downs over the years, the Swiss hotel industry has never lost its original qualities and competences. As at Riffelalp, it is by stressing the quality of infrastructure and service, without concessions, and furthermore in a unique setting, that the Foundation can demonstrate that quality to a discerning clientele.
The operating permit originally stipulated that the hotel would remain in place until the autumn of 2003. But the enthusiasm of the public and the authorities for the project, the publicity generated by its innovative character and the fact that it will eventually be the only building remaining from Expo.02 in the city of Neuchâtel, led to the process now underway to authorize regulatory changes needed for the hotel to be kept permanently.
The Sandoz Family Foundation supported Expo in Hanover with the construction of a youth camp. The complex, comprising 1600 beds and an appropriate number of public rooms, offered comfortable, budget-priced overnight accommodation for young people aged between 12 and 28.
Lausanne-based architect Kurt Hofmann devised the camp on a modular system. The 180 or so modules can easily be dismantled for re-erection elsewhere. In 2002, some of them were re-erected on the Arteplage in Yverdon-les-Bains for the Swiss national exhibition (Expo.02). Others are currently being used to accommodate the staff of Hotel Palafitte in Neuchâtel. Other units were handed over to the Foundation Sport-Etudes in Lausanne for developing its sports boarding school. It is also intended to use some parts of the installation for social purposes.
With this commitment, the Sandoz Family Foundation pursued its principles of innovation and sustained value and launched a project that attracted attention far beyond the scope of the Expo exhibitions. The Family Foundation did deliberately not confine its involvement to straightforward financing, but made this modular, re-usable and original building available as a product in its own right