They once served humans and animals as shelter: cave dwellings under huge rock slabs. In Switzerland, a photographer visited the natural dwellings in which alpine shepherds lived until a few decades ago.

No nail can be hammered into the wall so easily here: The rooms are made of solid rock walls, as are the ceilings. These alpine apartments are not buildings made of wood or stone, but caves and grottoes that have only been expanded by human hands.

This form of natural accommodation can be found in the entire Alpine region. Especially in higher regions they were used as sheltered overnight accommodation, as pantries, workrooms for food production and as stables for animals.

These Costruzioni sotto roccia , constructions under rock, as they are called in Italian, were created centuries ago and are now considered not only as examples of architecture in the mountains, but also document how skillfully the Alpine population was able to exploit the geographical and geological conditions.

Especially in Ticino , in the side valleys of the Maggia Valley north-west of Locarno, you can still find these buildings hidden in the landscape, which were often built out of necessity and have been cared for and developed over generations: the Splüi, as they are called there. The term Splüi probably comes from the Latin spelunca for cave

On the following pages of the photo series we give you an insight into a Splüi that was still inhabited until the 1980s.

Emily Wong

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