The Monolith under the magnifying glass

Icon: The Monolith

Although it weighs nearly 4'000 tons, it makes a light, transparent impression. And it floats. The Monolith, landmark of the Murten-Morat Arteplage and symbol of ephemerality, is a masterpiece of engineering.

Really, it is a boat. At least in the eyes of the law. That is why the Monolith is equipped with lifeboats and number plates. The fact that the boat can float at all is due to its spectacular construction. The platform, for example, which bears the cube, consists of 100 hollow concrete blocks, each them the size of a room measuring 3.40 x 3.40 x 4.75 metres. They were assembled to form a 2'800-ton foundation in the Broye Canal near Sugiez and transported to their definite location in Lake Murten with the help of two tugs.

Helicopter transport for the crane

The raft was moored 200 metres from the shore of Lake Murten. 24 steel cables anchored in the lake bed ensure that the platform (and with it the Monolith) cannot float away. The superstructure consists of steel, the façades of rusted steel panels. The dimensions of the cube, which is accessible only by boat, are impressive: it is 34 metres high, 34 metres wide and 34 metres deep. A huge crane stood in the interior until the carcassing was completed; since the Monolith's outer skin was already closed at that point, the crane's boom had to be transported by helicopter. The mast was dismantled element by element and taken ashore by boat.

Panoramas then and now

The Monolith moves in stormy weather. The oscillation amplitude can be as much as two metres. During the carcassing stage, a maximum of 20 workmen was employed on the floating island at any one time. Apart from steel and concrete, materials such as wood, corrugated iron, Pavatex and rubber were used for the Monolith. The interior accommodates the historic panorama painting of the Battle of Murten dating from 1894 and the topical Swiss Panorama Version 2.1, a multi-medial installation by a group of artists from Basel. A third panorama opens up the reality of the Murten-Morat landscape.

The creator of the Monolith is the 56-year-old Parisian architect Jean Nouvel, one of the leading exponents of contemporary architecture. He is also the author of the acclaimed Culture and Congress Centre (KKL) in Lucerne.

Photos: © Michel Jaussi