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First Swiss Post building boom

Around 26 monumental Swiss Post buildings are built in cantonal capitals and other large towns. With both its large and small post office buildings, Swiss Post represents the new federal state in all regions of Switzerland.

Main post office in St. Gallen, 1887. Source: Museum of Communication

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When the Confederation takes over the postal service in 1849, there is already a dense network of horse coach services in place, with a good range of services for travel and postal transport. The Swiss federal postal service takes over the infrastructure of the cantonal postal companies, and with it most post office buildings on lease, including a number of prestigious buildings in larger cities. The small post offices in particular represent the fledgling federal state in the remotest parts of the country.

Oberbipp post office building and mail coach, 1890. Source: Museum of Communication
The “Swiss Post bureau” in Oberbipp, 1890. Source: Museum of Communication

Proximity to railway stations counts

The railway age and growth in traffic have their impact on post office locations: the post office buildings built in larger towns before 1850 soon become too small. The buildings are now also inconveniently located. The postal administration wants to build its own post office buildings near railway stations, but it is not until the 1880s that the project comes to fruition: the main post office in St. Gallen, opened in 1887, is the first post office building built by the Swiss Confederation.

Main post office in Frauenfeld, 1898. Source: PTT Archive
Main post office in Frauenfeld, 1898. Source: PTT Archive

In the years that follow, prestigious post office buildings are built in quick succession in the cantonal capitals and other larger towns in Switzerland. Their architectural style – at least in German-speaking Switzerland – takes its bearings from classical antiquity and the Italian Renaissance. After the turn of the century, new post office buildings are more strongly focused on regional and local traditions.

Important building: Sihlpost

During the First World War, Swiss Post interrupts its building activities. It is not until the mid-1920s that it commissions further new buildings. There is a turn away from prestigious palace buildings and towards more modern styles. In the most important post office building of the period, the Sihlpost building in Zurich inaugurated in 1930, there is a direct convergence of tradition and modernity. For the first time, the architecture is determined by internal postal operations. The Sihlpost building is equipped with conveyor systems, rotary tables and chutes. The only creative adornment: the mosaics at the main entrances.

The Sihlpost building in Zurich, 1930. Source: PTT Archive
Sihlpost, 1930. Source: PTT Archive

In the booming economy of the period up to the oil crisis in 1973, the responsibilities of the federal government grow, and with them the space required for administration. In 1970, the PTT opens its functional building for general management in Bern-Schönburg.

Construction of large parcel and letter centers

The PTT sets innovative priorities in the 1990s, such as the complex consisting of a PostBus station and PTT business premises at Chur railway station. Processing centers also define Swiss Post’s image in the public eye: by 2010, major projects have given rise to three new parcel centers in Daillens, Härkingen and Frauenfeld, as well as three new letter centers in Zurich-Mülligen, Härkingen and Eclépens.

Chur PostBus station, circa 1995. Source: Museum of Communication
Innovative PTT building: Chur PostBus station, circa 1995. Source: Museum of Communication


Karl Kronig, Bauen für eine Nation. Von Postpalästen, PTT-Bauten und Kunst am Bau, in: Gesellschaft für Schweizerische Kunstgeschichte GSK (ed.), Kunst + Architektur in der Schweiz, number 4/2020 (journal).

Karl Kronig, Museum of Communication (ed.): Ab die Post! 150 Jahre schweizerische Post, Bern, 1999.

Walter Knobel, Swiss Post (ed.): Gelb bewegt. Die Schweizerische Post ab 1960, Bern 2011.

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