History - A touch of Magic Mountain
Davos stands for a world of sanatoriums, which at the beginning of the 20th century was not only synonymous with ill health. Patients’ minds and spirits were stimulated in the mountain world which was a totally incomparable experience for many of them. In the alpine community of people sharing the same destiny, far away from everyday life and duties, a rather special form of living flourished.
The history of Davos spa tourism can be traced back to the winter of 1865/66 during which two sick guests stayed in Davos whose health rapidly improved in the high-altitude climate. This led Dr. Alexander Spengler, the local doctor, together with partners in Davos, to organise the construction of a spa house, which later became the Hotel Europe. Fifteen years later, there followed a home for the seriously ill, the subsequent Alexanderhaus. Jan Wilem Holsboer also decided to move there from Holland due to his wife’s ill-health and acted as the Director of the Kurhaus for many years. He succeeded in making Davos ever-more well-known and arranged for the spa resort to be connected to the Rhaetian Railway network at a very early date.
In the meantime, the tuberculosis bacterium was discovered and its long-suspected infection risk confirmed. Working in his own sanatorium, Dr. Karl Turban was the first to improve what had been poor hygienic conditions up to that time and introduced a recumbent therapy with strict periods of rest. He had his own specially designed reclining chairs produced for this purpose which still characterise the image of the sanatorium word to this day.
Whereas the first sanatorium buildings were still constructed in the urban manner with historicising style elements, the arrival of the 20th century brought with it an increasingly characteristic construction type. Large halls for recumbent patients in the form of graceful external balcony constructions defined the main facades of the buildings.
The avant-garde era
One year after the opening of the newly constructed Waldsanatorium, the wife of writer Thomas Mann stayed there for therapy in 1912. It is to be assumed that he absorbed the essential impressions of the seclusion of this Davos patient community that forms the central issue of his novel “The Magic Mountain” in the course of his visits.
Davos, however, did not enjoy its heyday until the inter-war years. An intelligentsia consisting of writers, painters and architects popularised the modern Davos. Flat roofs became compulsory for new buildings. Even the gable roof of the town hall was demolished during this period and replaced with a flat roof. The architectural highlight was probably reached with the Klinik Clavadel by Rudolf Gabarel in 1932. Nowadays it is regarded as an important representative of the classical modernity in Switzerland.
It was a similar story with the present youth hostel in Davos-Dorf, the former “Beau-Site” sanatorium erected in 1913. From a slightly elevated position, it overlooks Davos-Dorf, pointing down the valley towards the sun with its spacious resting hall level. Following a first refurbishment in the classic-expressionist style in 1927, it was renamed the Sanatorium Albula. In 1957, the steep gable roof was replaced with a flat roof.
During its most recent refurbishment, the building underwent conversion by Swiss Youth Hostels in 2000–2001 to become the first Swiss “Youthpalace”.
Davos Youthpalace today
Recuperating guests in deckchairs