Raised in the picturesque mountain town of Zermatt, Heinz Julen was from the very beginning destined to be different. He was named after Henry Heinz, creator of the world’s best-loved tomato ketchup, who was a frequenter of his father’s restaurant and close friend. Heinz Julen was born on the 29th February 1964.
Through living in Zermatt, Heinz was able to craft a special relationship with his surroundings which enhanced his sense of spirituality. This can be seen in his art where his personality and soul manifest themselves in his designs and creations.
Heinz has had an incredible career and has accomplished many extraordinary feats, from sculpture exhibitions in Zurich through to designing and even part-building hotels. He is a true artist and has, on occasion, experienced differences of opinion with business partners, some of which have been the catalyst for further creativity.
In February 2000 he opened a hotel with promoter Alex Schärer, which closed just seven weeks after opening, after which Schärer proceeded to tear down any trace of the artist, apart from the shell of the construction. The demise of this 27 million euro venture spawned Heinz’s “The Last Room of a Vision” exhibition, which was presented at galleries – including the Vernissage in Zermatt – and exhibitions throughout Europe in the following years.
We sat down with Heinz to hear his views on architecture, find out where he seeks his inspiration and to hear about his much anticipated and debated project which could see a hotel at the top of a mountain in Zermatt.
Who or what inspired you to study and practice architecture?
The old Valaisan houses on their legs, function follows design. The Valser culture.
Do you have a different method for approaching design in the mountains as opposed to a city like Amsterdam?
I’m always looking for the truth and simplicity behind the design. So whether in Amsterdam or Zermatt my thought process doesn’t change.
Do you try to inject a personality into your projects and do you have any consistent characteristics that you keep coming back to with design?
I belive its the creator’s soul, that stays and remains in a product – the more the creator has found his own way and knows himself, his own soul, the more his objects carry this in them. Therefore they are able to be recognised immediately.
When you go away on holiday do you look for similar styles to those that you design yourself or something completely different?
I let myself be surprised by what I find. The surprise is much more fun, if you did not look for it first.
Are there any designers or architects that you really admire and take inspiration from?
Well I am maybe more inspired by artists like Frank Stella and Ore Chamberlin – but also Daniel Spoerri the Swiss artiste changed my way of thinking many years back.
What are your favourite structures both in and out of the mountains?
The opposite, the sea, the flat. The calm.
A lot of people are talking about the project to create the highest hotel in the Alps on the Klein Matterhorn, are you able to give any insights into your ideas for this design?
Well, with this project I want to create a dream in peoples head. I want to make them dream of an almost unrealistiqe idea. I want to create places, where people dream of and picture when they hear others talking of it.
It will be like a space station, only much more sustanible in an ecological condition. The whole project will be powerd by solar panels, and will be self-sufficient. Looking out over 200 houses in Zermatt, a tower on top of a mountain, is a very simple idea, that is easy to remember and to place. All the positive and negative pilosophical reaction that such a project creates is also very interesting. This make us think about tourism in the Alps on a much deeper level.
All these different reactions and talk of the project is a testament to the quality and ambition behind it.
Some of Heinz’s recent triumphs include Alpine Guru chalets, The Heinz Julen Penthouse
which is the former home of our acclaimed interviewee and The Heinz Julen Loft
which combines Manhattan loft living with nature in the mountain environment. There’s also the Backstage Hotel Vernissage
, designed by Heinz and run by his wife, Evelyne. You can stay in all of these properties
through Alpine Guru.