The Chalet Hentsch was built in 1904 for a railway engineer, Paul-Auguste Hentsch, who was responsible for the construction of part of the Martigny-Chamonix line, which runs through the Trient valley. Located halfway along the section concerned, between the villages of Le Trétien and Le Châtelard, the village of Finhaut was then a posh mountain resort, highly prized by the British bourgeoisie who came to stay there during the summer months. Edouard Borel, an architect from Bex, was commissioned to draw up the plans.
At that time, Swiss architecture was being shaken up both by new needs arising from industrial development and by the national exhibitions (Zurich 1883, Geneva 1896), which promoted a kind of nationalism through the Heimatstil. The Hentsch project, intended for urban clients, breathes the air of the times in all its contradictions: picturesque expression of the Swiss chalet (false planks, sculpted balconies), hints of exoticism (moulded balcony supports, wooden gratings), recourse to modern machinery (standardised wooden framework from the Aigle/VD sawmill), large bay windows, hygienism and heliotherapy (south-facing veranda, vast balconies).
The 2019 restoration project consists of discreetly restoring this protagonist of the first Swiss mountain leisure architecture: repairing and occasionally replacing damaged elements with maximum respect for the built substance (windows and bay windows, doors, panelling, framework, balconies, roofs), some additional insulation (against the attic, against the cellar), new sanitary equipment (kitchens, bathrooms installed in rooms) without typological modification. The zinc restoration of the main roof will be carried out during 2022.
text by Jan Perneger