The top spot in the Swiss ranking, compiled for the first time this year, was taken by Jean Ziegler. The 82-year-old sociologist has been one of the most strident figures in Switzerland for decades. Architects are given prominence in the positions that follow: Jacques Herzog, Mario Botta and Santiago Calatrava occupy second to fourth place, and Peter Zumthor occupies 15th place. On the one hand, these high rankings illustrate the international standing of Swiss architecture firms. On the other, architects have the upper hand in media terms because of what they create: they can build more projects than scholars can write books, and articles are often published in the media about their projects: from design competitions to the start of construction, delays, cost increases and openings.

Digital ‘Röstigraben’

The phalanx of German Swiss figures at the top of the ranking demonstrates that even software can’t level out the so-called ‘Röstigraben’ German-French cultural divide in Switzerland. In fact, it’s probably become even more entrenched: when a network analysis investigates an overwhelming majority and a powerful minority, both of which communicate intensely among themselves but very little with each other, the majority networks appear to be more powerful and substantial than those of the minority. Language barriers turned out to be relatively impermeable in all GDI Thought Leader analyses. Even though these language barriers harbour less potential for conflict in Switzerland than in Belgium or Spain, they nevertheless result in public spheres that are largely separate.