Vals, Graubünden, Switzerland

Vals is a municipality located in the Canton Graubünden, region Surselva, in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. To this day the 1.000 inhabitants speak and cultivate the local dialect, Walser-German. Vals is situated 1.250 meters above sea level at the end of a hilly valley. The community members do not only understand to live in this habitat but also to flourish and take good care of this unique landscape which is the basis for economic activities.

In former times the community lived solely of agriculture, which to this day plays an important role, and today all the farmers produce organic products, which are mostly sold within the local valley. As an active member of the „Alliance in the Alps” Vals is part of many networking projects in order to foster sustainable development of the Alpine Convention. The municipality uses renewable energies for electricity exclusively, not least because of the construction of a hydroelectric plant. This pioneering achievement also bears fruits in an economic sense.

Tourism and broad opportunities for the economic life have created new sources of revenue for the population over the past decades and increased the attractiveness of the municipality for potential new community members and as a result the population size remained constant. Particularly the use of the mineral water in Vals and the extraction of quartzite have boosted the numerous small and medium-sized service, handicraft and other enterprises.

In regards to tourism Vals has taken a very special path by promoting quality rather than quantity. The construction of the famous thermal spa, designed by Peter Zumthor, proves the brave attitude towards modern architecture while using the typical local material – stone. Further examples of modern architecture followed and have been integrated in the municipality‘s identity. At the same time traditional buildings are being sustained and serve as an inspiration for the contemporary art, and ultimately this well-balanced mix adds up to a homogeneous appearance.

Vals is characterised by its open and pluralistic society and on the one hand stands out through the active club life and on the other hand through numerous initiatives to involve all parts of the population – all generations and both genders. Migrants are invited to participate in a language course and actively integrated in the social, cultural and sportive life due to broad measures. The intense participation of community members in the local decision-making processes via requests and initiatives and the engagement in project-oriented working groups is welcomed and encouraged by the community.

Its local supply and health care services have a solid infrastructure and special attention is on the one hand paid to children and young adults and on the other hand to the elderly, in addition to projects across generations. A close cooperation between the kindergarten, school, community and clubs are the basis for the broad leisure program and extra-curricular education. Senior accommodations and comprehensive accessibility, as well as rich cultural and artistic offerings have improved the quality of life considerably. An extensive publishing activity of locals establishes a great sense of identity.

The series of measures taken by creative, open, and concrete actions is impressive and exemplary. Future generations will find a firm foundation due to a harmonized sensible use of special resources like water, stone and grass.

Evaluated: 2012