A mosaic composed of 246 ceramic tiles adorns the Parliament Building. It was installed to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the adoption of the first Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation (1848).

Art​​work

Studio Renée Levi (Renée Levi and Marcel Schmid, Basel)

Realisation

Swisskeramik AG, Sarnen

Carlo Bernasconi AG, Bern

Suter+Partner Architekten, Bern

In the tympanum of the north façade of the Parliament Building, 246 ceramic tiles – one for each member of the Swiss Parliament – are arranged in a dynamic mosaic. The tiles are grooved and glazed, creating a series of ever-changing colour fields depending on how the light falls on them. This continually evolving interplay is symbolic of the task of the bicameral Swiss Parliament, in which the National Council and Council of States represent the interests of the Swiss population. The colour of the glaze on the historic façade is also reminiscent of how Hans Wilhelm Auer (1847–1906), the architect who designed the building, incorporated stone from all regions of Switzerland into the building exterior.

Triangular pediments can be found throughout architectural history: on temple buildings of antiquity they are dedicated to the gods, while in court and parliament buildings these raised stages above the columns are occupied by political officials and their symbols. The tympanum of the Parliament Building has been empty since the building was inaugurated in 1902 – despite several attempts at filling it with artistic decoration. The artwork by Studio Renée Levi provides a reinterpretation of the pediment area: as people walk by on the square, their movements become a series of playful reflections on the tiles, bringing the public into relationship with the building and its function. The Parliament Building appeals to all those in a pluralistic society who, as individuals, are prepared to work together to negotiate structures of power and models of participation.

‘Tilo’ was the result of a competition organised by the Art Commission for Parliament Buildings for artists to give the tympanum on the north side of the Federal Palace a sign of our times. The artwork was commissioned for the 175th anniversary of the Federal Constitution. The tiles, produced by hand as unique pieces, break the strict symmetry of the façade. They pay tribute to the monument of the Parliament Building, creating a visual resonance chamber and allowing for different interpretations in terms of diversity and opinion-forming.

The title ‘Tilo’ alludes to the English word ‘tile’ and thus to the material used. Above all, however, the title of the work was chosen in honour of Tilo Frey (1923–2008). She was a politician from Neuchâtel of Swiss-Cameroonian origin and among the first group of women to enter the National Council in October 1971 after women had won the right to vote and to run for public office earlier in the year. This homage to a person of colour reveals many layers of diversity: Switzerland has multifaceted migrant histories, with different ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities laying claim to participation and co-determination. Through it all, a balanced interplay between stability and flexibility remains a cornerstone of our democracy.

Film anlässlich der Eröffnungs-Zeremonie​


Photos: Rob Lewis


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