As of 2020, there are 177 international tripoints where three countries meet. Whereas most of those geographic rarities are located within a forgotten wasteland, some were developed into tourist attractions. Nestled at the northern tip of Basel, Dreiländereck serves as the border triangle between Switzerland, France and Germany. The tripoint, which lies in the middle of the Rhine River, is marked by a quirky monument as well as a leisure center whose artificial beach attracts curious onlookers.
In the vast majority of cases, international tripoints exist unassumingly, steeped in complete desolation. Contrarily, some border triangles have managed to capitalize on their unique geographic features, becoming an intriguing tourist attraction. In the not-so-distant past, the shared border between France, Germany and Switzerland siginfied the perpetual hostility which culminated in World War II.
As part of all three nations’ endeavor to open a new chapter after the brutal conflict, the Basel born artist and architect Wilhelm Münger was entrusted with designing a monument that would mark the location where the 3 countries meet. Erected in 1956, the Dreiländereck monument sits on the tip of a narrow peninsula that juts out to the Rhine River, about 150 meters southeast of the actual tripoint.
Due to its massive weight of more than 8 tons, the 18.7-meter-tall monument was transported by a truck to the site, where a crane hoisted it to its current whereabouts, next to Basel’s Rhine harbor. Made of 1.5-centimeter-thick iron sheets, the sculpture is comprised of a spire and three wings, each of which is emblazoned with the national flag of the country which it is pointed to.
Intriguingly, the upper segment of each wing features a slender and spiral shape, eventually merging with its other two counterparts at the sculpture’s uppermost part. Somewhat akin to a propeller, this design was partly the brainchild of Istvan Csontos, a Hungarian mathematician who fled to Switzerland in the early 1950’s, and painstakingly calculated the complex curves of this convoluted statue.
Overlooking Germany and France, the mid-river tripoint and the many vessels making their way to and from the North Sea, the monument embodies postwar Europe, where peace and prosperity dominated the political landscape.
In 1990, following an architectural contest, a two-story building was constructed in front of the monumental sculpture. Aptly named Dreiländereck Building, the recreational complex is home to an event room, a bar and most strikingly, a terrace bestowed with an artificial beach where visitors can have a glimpse of the three countries while sipping a scrumptious cocktail.
photography by: Wladyslaw Sojka and Jonas Lucas/ Wikimedia Commons
photography by: Katsutoshi Seki and Jie Yang/ Wikimedia Commons
photography by: Mario RM/ Flickr
photography by: Bvoeten/ Wikimedia Commons