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The Federal Office of Topography, founded in Geneva in 1838 by Guillaume-Henri Dufour as the Federal Topographical Bureau, is one of the oldest parts of the Swiss Federal Administration. The Dufour Map, a 1:100,000 topographic map of Switzerland and the first official nationwide map series, was published in 1845. The lease on the bureau’s premises in Geneva expired at the end of May 1865, after which a move to Bern was planned. Relocating to the Swiss capital marked the beginning of the Office’s nomadic existence, which was to last until 1941.

Ulmenweg 9

Sketch map of the Ulmenweg location in Bern

After leaving Geneva, the first Topographical Bureau set up in Bern. Dufour’s designated successor, Lieutenant Colonel Hermann Siegfried, and his colleagues at the Confederate Headquarters (Eidgenössisches Stabsbureau) worked at what was then Ulmenweg 9 from 1865 to 1867. The lower floor was also used as an apartment for one employee.


Bubenbergplatz 3

Photo of the present-day UBS building at No. 3 Bubenbergplatz

The Topographical Bureau’s second Bern base was the ground floor of what is now UBS, where it remained for 13 years from 1867. Still headed by Siegfried, the Bureau had already begun to be spread across several different locations: with no room left for the printing works, it moved to what is now Laupenstrasse 5.


Hochschulstrasse 6

Photo of building at No. 6 Hochschulstrasse in Bern

From 1880 to 1890, the Topographical Bureau was based at its third site in Bern, the second and top floors of Hochschulstrasse 6. From the end of 1879, the Bureau was headed by Jules Dumur, who was also instrumental in its move to the new premises.


Lorrainestrasse 3

Photo of the building at No. 3 Lorrainestrasse in Bern

Jumping forward in time, the Topographical Bureau spent just two years (1890-1892) at its fourth base in Bern, in what is now Lorrainestrasse 3. Colonel Jean-Jacques Lochmann headed up this Bureau. The building had been constructed in 1874 as an institute for the blind.


Federal Palace East Wing

Bundeshaus Ost
Photo of the East Wing of the Federal Parliament

In 1892, the Topographical Bureau moved to the east wing of the Federal Palace. In the past, Siegfried had already tried hard to acquire premises in a newly constructed federal government building. Although communication channels were shorter, mainly technical work had to be outsourced, meaning that this location was not ideal either.


Hallwylstrasse 4

Photo of the building at No. 4 Hallwylstrasse in Bern

After the Topographical Survey of Switzerland was created as an independent organisational unit on 20 December 1901, the Swiss government approved a loan to purchase land for a new building. Leonz Held became the first director after the building was completed in 1904. After a few years, however, space once again ran out due to the increasing number of employees and the purchase of large-scale evaluation devices.


Seftigenstrasse 264

Photo of the swisstopo building in Wabern

After spending some time searching for a suitable site for another new building, the Federal Office of Topography swisstopo moved to Seftigenstrasse 264. The new premises were built in 1941 and joined to the old spinning mill that occupied the site. This brought an end to around 100 years of nomadic existence, as all departments are now under the same roof – including the printers.



  • Topographic Bureau in Bern, 1865 to 1941
    The Federal Office of Topography, which was founded in 1838 as the “Bureau topographique fédéral” by Guillaume-Henri Dufour in Geneva, is one of the oldest units of the Federal Administration. The premises in Geneva were only rented until the end of May 1865, after which time the plan was to move the Topographic Bureau to Bern. This move heralded a period of a nomadic existence that would last until 1941.
    PDF, 3 page(s), 443 KB, German
  • Locations of the Topographic Bureau and the Federal Office of Topography from 1838 to the present
    The present-day Federal Office of Topography swisstopo is one of the oldest institutions within the modern Federal Administration. It was founded in 1838 in Carouge (Geneva) as the “Bureau topographique fédéral”, and began to publish the first official set of national maps, the 1:100,000 Topographic Map of Switzerland, in 1845. After its move to Bern, it had to change locations a number of times, sometimes to highly prestigious addresses, until it was at long last able to move into its own building at 264 Seftigenstrasse in Wabern around 100 years after its establishment.
    PDF, 12 page(s), 3 MB, German


Bilfinger, Monica; Klöti, Thomas; Rickenbacher, Martin: Die ehemalige Eidgenössische Landestopographie, Hallwylstrasse 4, Bern (1903-1941). Bern, 2012.

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


Federal Office of Topography swisstopo

Seftigenstrasse 264
P.O. Box
3084 Wabern


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