Einsiedeln Abbey, Switzerland

A square within the square

Client: Kloster Einsiedeln
Architecture: Romero & Schaefle
Partner title: Traffic planning
Partner: TEAMverkehr
Period: 2009 – 2011
Surface area: 3 800m2

Being the second biggest and important sacral square in Europe right after Saint Peter‘s Square in Rome, the space in front of famous Einsiedeln Abbey has been and is still a meeting point for pilgrims from the entire world. Since its construction 270 years ago it has gone through many changes, which have taken away much of  its former spatial quality and atmosphere. The planned redesign does not only refer to the square itself. It is expected to find consistent, sustainable design solutions  also for the adjacent free spaces: Weisswingarden, the abbey courtyard and the traffic- and parking areas.

The concept refers to the existing typologies, square, courtyard and park, and the high quality of the original baroque design. On this basis the concept develops spaces differing in their atmosphere depending on their meaning and functionality and defines their boundaries anew.

The redesign emphasizes the importance of the square in front of the abbey as a representative, central meeting point with a simple but effective intervention:
A step underneath the Lady Fountain optically completes the oval which is implied by the Arcades in front of the abbey. This way the step and the arcades create a „square within the square“. Like an inlay it is set into the major paving of the entire space connecting the abbey with the town of Einsiedeln.

Being situated between the abbey on its elevated plain, the town underneath it and the adjacent cultivated landscape, the „square within the square“ has an interesting topography. By adding a second flight of steps to the existing stairs the gradient of the square is reduced. The pavement pattern defines and accentuates the shape of the terrain.

The repositioning of the street and the parking lots  supports the square‘s generous and quiet atmosphere. The opening of Weisswindgarden provides views into the surrounding landscape. Placed between park and Square, the architectural elements define the spaces and emphasize the characteristic atmosphere of the different elements within the perimeter.