The very first pop-up House of Switzerland in Stuttgart – but why is it being launched?
For the first time in its history, Switzerland will open a touring Swiss pavilion in neighbouring Germany. From 1 July to 31 October, an almost 2,000m2 space in the Firnhaber building in Stuttgart city centre will provide a meeting venue for direct contact between Switzerland and actors from the region's economic, cultural and political circles. Paul Seger, Switzerland's ambassador to Berlin, explains the rationale behind the idea.
The opening of the first Pop-Up House of Switzerland in Stuttgart on 1 July will focus on Switzerland. © House of Switzerland
The Olympic Games are not taking place in Stuttgart, but the mood is upbeat in the Swabian city which will host the first touring pop-up House of Switzerland. Switzerland is trialling a format here which it has only ever previously used at major global events. Despite no such event taking place here, a Swiss pavilion will nevertheless open its doors in a region which engages in extensive economic, cultural and political cooperation with Switzerland.
Highlighting Switzerland's profile, fostering relations with its neighbouring countries and strengthening its position as a dependable partner in the fields of innovation and cooperation are the main goals of opening the first pop-up House of Switzerland in Stuttgart from 1 July. This will present an opportunity to showcase cutting-edge technology in Switzerland and gradually replace the hackneyed clichés that still exist.
Stuttgart – the first stop on a long roadshow
Organised by Presence Switzerland and in collaboration with Switzerland Tourism and Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE), the House of Switzerland aims to support – over a four-month period – temporary communication initiatives between two regions to strengthen their relations. In this particular case, the aim is to enhance Switzerland's image and to promote fresh cooperation with Baden-Württemberg, the most significant neighbouring German region. Until 31 October, Stuttgart will become a meeting venue for direct contact between economic, scientific, cultural and political actors from Switzerland and the region.
In total, around 100 specialist events will be organised on common topics, but particularly in the fields of innovation and sustainability. This communication initiative aims to make a lasting impact. After the first stage in Stuttgart, at the heart of one of Switzerland's most important neighbouring regions in economic terms, the pop-up House of Switzerland will go on to visit cities in Italy, France and elsewhere. This means Stuttgart is the first stop on a long roadshow.
Five questions for Paul Seger, the Swiss ambassador to Berlin
Mr Seger, why have you chosen Stuttgart as the city for the launch of the pop-up House of Switzerland?
We looked at various German cities but ultimately opted for Stuttgart for two reasons. Firstly, the federal state of Baden-Württemberg is Switzerland's most significant economic partner by some margin and we also enjoy close geographic and cultural ties. The second point is that Switzerland has a higher profile in Stuttgart than anywhere else in Germany which makes the launch of this pilot project easier.
What are the pop-up House of Switzerland's special features?
The pop-up house is an ideal platform for presenting innovative, creative and perhaps also surprising aspects of Switzerland. It also provides a venue for meeting and exchange to discuss common ground, cooperation models and future prospects with our friends in Baden-Württemberg. Issues in our direct vicinity, such as urban development, mobility and sustainability, are equally important to us both. A key element will also be the revitalisation and strengthening of economic relations with our main trading partners after coronavirus. With a mixed programme of exhibitions, panel discussions and presentations, but also games, entertainment and cuisine, we aim to appeal to a specialist audience but also the wider public. Over 100 events are planned over the four-month period.
The pop-up House of Switzerland will be temporarily set up in Stuttgart. But could it become a permanent venue for exchange one day?
As the name suggests, the pop-up house is a fixed-term project whose charm lies in the fact that it isn't permanent and is conducive to experimentation. A permanent 'House of Switzerland' would be worth considering, but we're focusing on a roadshow where the pop-up house will visit other locations if the trial in Stuttgart proves successful.
How might relations between Switzerland and the region of Baden-Württemberg develop?
The Swiss-German border region between Lake Constance and the elbow of the Rhine is an economic area and living space for around five million people which occupies a leading position in Europe in terms of networking, economic power, innovation and dynamism. Switzerland is using this pop-up presence to highlight the fact that it remains a reliable and supportive partner after the pandemic-related restrictions. Despite all the downsides, one positive thing to emerge from the coronavirus crisis is just how closely we have converged across borders. The temporary division underlined just how valuable contact with neighbours previously taken for granted actually is. The joy of seeing one another again presents an ideal opportunity to create impetus to strengthen relations. In the current situation, regular dialogue is more important than ever – not least against the backdrop of current European policy. This is why we made a proposal to Germany several months ago about the set-up of a cross-border dialogue platform for mutual exchange and discussion on border region issues. This platform will not simply be used to discuss existing challenges or obstacles but will also act as a forum for projects that underpin the sense of community across national borders and initiate or advance specific improvements to everyday life in the border region.
Is neighbouring Germany aware of Switzerland's diversity or does this promotional initiative need to be stepped up?
Switzerland's image in Germany is generally positive, but a little clichéd. The Swiss are associated with cheese, chocolate, watches and pocket knives. But little is known about Switzerland's innovative capability and its importance as a location for science and technology. The pop-up house aims to highlight the innovative, original and sustainable sides of Switzerland and to wow audiences. This is why we are collaborating with a wide range of partners. Foremost amongst them are Switzerland Global Enterprise (SG-E), Switzerland Tourism, but also cantons, cities, research institutions, associations and companies. But a variety of German partners are also actively involved in our events as the aim is not just to reveal new and surprising aspects of an innovative and sustainable Switzerland, but also to engage in dialogue with our neighbours and to exchange experiences.