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New tasks and Topographic Landscape Model

Changes and innovation define the recent past and present at swisstopo: the Swiss Federal Office’s fields of activity are expanding, the legal bases are being adapted to the needs of the day and the Topographic Landscape Model (TLM) is profoundly changing the production of geodata.

1998–2005     Erich Gubler
2006–2014     Jean-Philippe Amstein
2014–               Fridolin Wicki

1941–              Wabern, Seftigenstrasse 264

Bundesamt für Landestopographie
Office fédéral de la topographie
Ufficio federale di topografia

Bundesamt für Landestopografie swisstopo
Office fédéral de topographie swisstopo
Ufficio federale di topografia swisstopo

Landscape design createt with topographic landscape model data
Switzerland in 3D: The Topographic Landscape Model

A Widened Scope of Activity

The latest phase in the history of the Office was the inclusion of the Swiss Federal Directorate of Cadastral Surveying (1999) and the Swiss Geological Survey (2006) within swisstopo; the Coordination, Geo-Information and Services (COGIS) Division was set up in 2000.

Federal Act on Geoinformation

In 2008, the Swiss Federal Geoinformation Act came into force. It aims to provide current geodata relating to the entire Swiss territory promptly, easily and sustainably for the administration, economy and population to use.

This legal mandate is expressed in the Swiss Federal Geoportal, established in 2009/2010. It provides the general public with relevant geoinformation from many Federal Offices. The coordinates of the new national survey (LV95) were used as a geodetic basis for this, replacing the 1903 national coordinates system (LV03) in 2007.

Since 2018, Switzerland can also be viewed in 3D on the Swiss Federal Geoportal.

The Topographic Landscape Model

In parallel to the structural changes, swisstopo’s work processes also changed. Digital geodata was no longer derived from the analogue maps but from the digital models.

The impetus for this transformation occurred in 2001 when digital cartography definitively replaced negative scribing on glass, which had been introduced in 1953. However, this relationship between maps and digital models was only applied in the Topographic Landscape Model, operated since 2008.

The 3D geodatabase is directly based on the data drawn from the topographical photos.

New National Maps

The “New National Maps” have been created on the basis of data from the digital cartographic models (DCM) since 2011, which are based, in turn, on the TLM. This increases flexibility, making it possible to optimise the new National Maps’ representation. This mainly makes them easier to read and adapts them to new customer requirements.

In 2016, the new flexibility of map production through TLM and DCM was made particularly clear: the National Maps were published for the first time to a scale of 1:10,000 and solely in digital form.


1999: Federal Directorate of Cadastral Surveying incorporated into Federal Office of Topography

Inorporation of Federal Directorate of Cadastral Surveying into the Federal Office of Topography.

2000: Introduction of COGIS Division

Introduction of COGIS (Coordination, Geo-Information and Services Division), which incorporates the INTERLIS competence centre.

2000: Initiation of input of digital terrain model

Commencement of input of a digital terrain model for the cadastral survey with accuracy up to 1 metre (Utilised Agricultural Land project).

2001: Database swissNAMES

Under the designation swissNAMES, the database containing around 190,000 geographic names is made available to the general public.

2001: Definitive replacement of negative scribing

As of the beginning of 2001, definitive replacement of the negative scribing process by digital cartography. Publication of the last map sheet (no. 39, Flüelapass) to be updated in analogue form.

2003: Federal Council adopts concept for implementation of geodata infrastructure

Federal Council adopts the concept for the implementation of the federal geoinformation strategy formulated by COGIS. The aim of this concept is to develop a national geodata infrastructure. This results in a paradigm shift at swisstopo: the focus is now on benefits for the economy instead of on business considerations. 

2004: Realisation of nationwide SWISSIMAGE coverage

Realisation of planned complete coverage of SWISSIMAGE. This means that every square metre of the country is now depicted in the form of a homogeneous orthophoto mosaic with a ground pixel resolution of 50 centimetres. 

2005: Acquisition of new aerial image camera (ADS40)

Acquisition of a new digital aerial image camera (ADS40), immediately available for updating the SWISSIMAGE orthophoto mosaic as well as the national maps, following the changeover from analytical to digital photogrammetry for the topographic survey. Introduction of new flight schedules for recording aerial images for SWISSIMAGE with the ADS40 in order to take account of the new ground pixel resolutions of 25 centimetres (central plain, Jura, Alpine valleys) and 50 centimetres (mountain regions). 

2006: swisstopo takes over management of Mont Terri research project

swisstopo takes over management of the Mont Terri (canton of Jura) research programme and is now operator of the rock laboratory. Mont Terri is an international research project aimed at determining the hydrogeological, geochemical and geotechnical characteristics of an opalinus clay formation.

2010: Geodata now available to everyone

Thanks to the implementation of the Federal Geoinformation Act, geodata are now available to everyone. swisstopo assists with the introduction of the federal geoportal. "Excellence publique" prize awarded to Federal geoportal is the first unit of the Federal Administration to use cloud computing.

2010: Publication of a new geological map

 Swiss Geological Survey publishes a new map in its GeoMaps 500 series: "Switzerland during the last glacial maximum".

2010: Production of three new 3D datasets

Production of three new 3D datasets from the topographic landscape model: swissBUILDINGS3D (building volume excluding roof shape), SWISSIMAGE FCIR (false-colour infrared orthophotos) and swissBOUNDARIES3D (administrative units and boundaries in vector form), replacing GG25. 

2012: New coordinates for the national maps

New coordinates for the national maps.In order to clearly distinguish between the old and new coordinates, a seventh digit has been prefixed to the original six-digit coordinates: 1 for the north-south direction and 2 for the east-west direction. 

2013: High-resolution digital height model now covers the entire country

High-resolution digital height model (swissALTI3D) now covers the entire country, including regions higher than 2,000 metres above sea level. SwissMeteo made a major contribution towards the creation of this model (e.g. by enabling climate observation).

2013: Viewer presenting 175 years of cartographic history

"Journey through time" viewer available online as of the beginning of the year. Users can now view almost 175 years of Switzerland's cartographic history. 

2014: New LUBIS (aerial image) viewer available online

New LUBIS (aerial image information system) viewer available online as of April. Contains around 320,000 historical aerial images of all regions of the country. Earliest images date from the 1920s.

2014: revision and update of 1:25,000 national map

swisstopo revises and updates 1:25,000 national map, and in January publishes the first four sheets in the new generation of maps. Improvement of digital use of national maps, and further development of cartography. 

2014: Printing of the first hydrogeological maps of Chad

A joint project between Chad, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the UN was set up in 2012 to map Chad’s water resources. swisstopo is in charge of map design and production.

2014: Swiss Map Mobile is now available by subscription

The annual subscription allows unlimited storage of maps on mobile devices for access even without a network.

2014: Cadastre of public-law restrictions on landownership (PLR Cadastre) now available

Five pilot cantons (Bern, Neuchâtel, Nidwalden, Thurgau and Zurich) put their PLR cadastre online. The surveying sector of swisstopo coordinates the work necessary to set up this cadastre, grouping the restrictions in many laws, ordinances and regulations concerning land-use.

2015: swissNAMES3D available free of charge

This data set categorizes over 300,000 geographical names and can be consulted free of charge on the Federal Geoportal or integrated into a variety of applications.

2015: The Federal Geoportal on the way towards 3D

Certain data on the Federal Geoportal can now be displayed in partial 3D (2.5D). This application is a test version from which conclusions will be drawn to improve the range of data and the display quality for producing a final 3D version.

2015: AGNES stations equipped with Multi-GNSS receivers

Stations in the AGNES network are now compatible with GPS (USA), GLONASS (Russia), Galileo (EU) and BeiDou (China) systems. This enhanced compatibility broadens the system’s development opportunities and increases the base of potential users.

2016: swisstopo publishes a national map at 1:10,000 scale

swisstopo’s famous national map is now available at the new 1:10,000 scale, but only in digital format. It is also revolutionary in terms of design, since it is generated automatically based on the topographic landscape model and is updated each year.

2016: The Mont Terri rock laboratory celebrates 20 years of existence

The underground laboratory researching the storage of radioactive waste in deep Opalinus Clay layers celebrates its 20th anniversary with an open day. Numerous visitors have an opportunity to view the installations that allow the 16 research partners to carry out 130 long-term experiments.

2016: swisstopo publishes a special map on the Gotthard Massif

With the inauguration of the new Gotthard Base Tunnel, swisstopo publishes a new map showing extracts from historical and geological maps. It illustrates and documents the development of communication axes from the time of postal coach travel to the moment of becoming the longest railroad tunnel in the world.

2017: Improvement of the resolution of SWISSIMAGE orthophotos

The SWISSIMAGE mosaic of orthophotos now has a ground resolution of 10 cm in the lowlands (25 cm previously) and 25 cm in the mountains (50 cm previously). Updating the orthophotos to this new standard will take place gradually until its completion in 2019.

Federal Office of Topography swisstopo Seftigenstrasse 264
P.O. Box
3084 Wabern
+41 58 469 01 11


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Federal Office of Topography swisstopo

Seftigenstrasse 264
P.O. Box
3084 Wabern


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