Werner Max Moser’s New Altstetten Church 1936-1941


  • Arthur Rüegg
  • Silvio Schmed





Modern Movement, Modern architecture, Modern housing


For George Everard Kidder Smith, the Protestant Church at Altstetten (a former Zurich suburb, integrated in 1934) was “unquestionably the finest Modern church in Switzerland, and possibly anywhere else”. In his famous anthology of Swiss architecture from 1950, he points out that it embodies on the one hand “almost all the church building philosophy which both the protestants and catholics have sought: one room of simplicity and dignity, binding the pulpit and the altar to the congregation in respectful unity”. On the other hand, he was interested in the fact that the church, built on the edge of a low hill, seeks a subtle relationship with an old village church that the congregation had outgrown. Instead of destroying it, Moser “carefully preserved and related it to the new by the angle and space relation between them and by the repetition of a mutual eave height.” With a few words, Kidder Smith succeeded in capturing the double interest that Moser’s building represents even today. As a matter of fact, the church center’s interiors are, as well as the exteriors, wonderfully calibrated, fragile compositions that fascinate us for their typically undogmatic combination of modern and conventional materials and (decorative) forms, but also for Moser’s informal but precise dealings with the architectural heritage. It is immediately understandable that renovating and extending this building complex was quite a challenge.

How to Cite

Rüegg, A., & Schmed, S. (2012). Werner Max Moser’s New Altstetten Church 1936-1941. Docomomo Journal, (47), 46–51. https://doi.org/10.52200/47.A.6UL46N48







Author Biographies

Arthur Rüegg

Architect ETH SIA BSA, Professor Emeritus ETH Zürich. Born in 1942 in Bülach, Switzerland, he has worked in Zurich, Paris and Boston and has his architectural office in Zurich since 1971 (ARCOOP–Ueli Marbach and Arthur Rüegg from 1971 to 1998). Associate Professor of Architecture and Technology at ETH Zürich from 1991 to 2007 he has been the author of several publications on Swiss architecture and design, especially on Sigfried Giedion and Le Corbusier. He has also been involved in several important exhibitions, such as “Synthèse des Arts” (Karlsruhe 1986), “L’Esprit Nouveau” (Zurich/Strasbourg/Berlin, 1987), “L’aventure Le Corbusier” (Paris 1987), and “Le Corbusier. The Art of Architecture” (Rotterdam, Weil, Lisbon, Liverpool, London, Berlin, 2007–2010).

Silvio Schmed

Architect BSA SWB, Member of the Swiss Association of Architects since 1996, he has been in charge of several restorations such as Villa Schönberg by architect Friedrich Bluntschli (1888), Villa Langmatt by architect Karl Moser (1912) and the Zürich–Altstetten Church by architect Werner Max Moser (1940), together with Arthur Rüegg. He has also been the editor of several publications such as Villa Mooser–Nef. Raumkunst original, Zurich, Gta Verlag, 2006 and Villa Schönberg. Enstehung und Erneuerung, Zurich, Museum Rietberg, 2003.


This article is partly based on Arthur Rüegg, Silvio Schmed, “Erneuerung und Erweiterung”, Schmed, Silvio; Rüegg, Arthur, Evangelisch–reformierte Kirchgemeinde Altstetten, Evangelisch–reformiertes Kirchenzentrum Altstetten, Zurich, gta Verlag, 2012, 36–43.