From 1659 to 1956, the Val Bregaglia was hit by 21 floods in which numerous bridges and houses were destroyed. Therefore, from 1969 to 1971, the largest flood retention wall in Switzerland was built in Maloja-Orden in order to hold back the floods of the Orlegna stream coming from the Fornotal.
The dam, designed by the engineering firm Maggia in Locarno, is 42 metres high and has a length of 171 metres. Up to 1.7 million cubic metres of water can be retained. The wall is owned by the canton of Graubünden and maintained by the electricity company of the city of Zurich.
The retention wall was inaugurated in 1972, at the same time that the Salecina education and holiday centre at the opposite end of the basin began operating. The retention basin experienced its first major test in July 1987, when the lake behind the dam filled almost to its maximum level within a few hours.
The "Culur " project
In 1995, in preparation of the 25th anniversary of Salecina, the idea arose to artistically decorate the dam wall built at the same time. In 1996, the artists Gottfried Honegger and Hannes and Petruschka Vogel presented their projects.
After intense discussions with individuals and groups, Gottfried Honegger's project was the favourite. His work consists of nine columns in the colours of the rainbow installed on the crown of the wall as a symbol of peace and an expression of optimism. A question in Italian, Rhaeto-Romanic and German is written on each column. At Salecina, all the colours are taken up whitin one column, as in a focus point. The iron columns are about 6 metres high and have a diameter of 40 centimetres. The Salecina column was constructed from prefabricated, concrete helices that were then stacked on top of each other. The columns were installed on 25 July 1997, and the inauguration ceremony took place in Salecina on 9 August.