One of the main elements that catch one’s eye in Lavaux is the series of walls running in parallel or perpendicular directions to the slope. Their principal vocation was to create terraces and allow cultivation of certain plots of land.
A variety of walls spread across 400 to 450 km and support more than 10,000 terraces or “charmus” (walls not intended to support a roof). They were built and maintained for centuries by the livestock farmers or craftsmen. During the 19th Century, intense work was undertaken to construct 3 railway lines and to enhance the main roads. This building work required specialist firms which were familiar with previously unknown techniques such as cut stones. From the end of the Second World War certain alterations to the plots of land began which led to the use of concrete for the walls. This material did not, however, favour the region’s biodiversity and its esthetical conservation. Nowadays more attention is paid to this problematic. Lake Geneva, both the mirror and the dustbin of Lavaux, is another important element of the Lavaux landscape. Its shores link the Lake to the cultivated, built up and inhabited land.
The built up areas, important components of the heritage of Lavaux, have been systematically and closely examined for the past 30 years as part of inventories established at federal and cantonal levels to ensure the region’s protection. For example, the Federal inventory of landscaped areas and natural monuments, set up in 1977, focuses on the landscape’s typology and on criteria from the arena of natural sciences. It was then completed with the Federal inventory of protected building zones in Switzerland, established in the early 1970s. This inventory shows the exceptional richness of the localities of Lavaux such as Lutry, Cully, Aran, Grandvaux, Riex, Epesses, Rivaz and Saint-Saphorin. 1228 buildings were listed and nearly 400 were put under protection due to them being of historical and architectural interest. (Visit the websites and the census values on www.geoplanet.vd.ch, « Thèmes », « Nature faune patrimoine », and then « Recensement architectural et sites »).
Source : MARCHAND, Bruno, FRUND, Joseph, VON BUEREN, Christine, «Paysage et architecture», in Lavaux, Vignoble en terrasses face au lac et aux Alpes. Lavaux World Heritage Site Application File for UNESCO, Cully, January 2006, pp. 76-88.