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From surveyors concordat to federal land register survey

With the aim of protecting landownership, the federal government and the cantons assumed joint responsibility for the cadastral survey, which was originally organised at the cantonal level.

For the time being, the cantons remained responsible for land register management and surveying activities. The Land Surveyors Concordat, which was established in 1864 and issued uniform surveying regulations, was a first step towards joint responsibility. In 1912, the tasks and financing relating to the cadastral survey were shared between the federal government and the cantons following the introduction of the Swiss Civil Code and the Federal Land Registry. From that date onwards, the main purpose of the cadastral survey and entries in the land register was to protect landownership.

1:10 000 overview plan dated 1865
1:10 000 overview plan dated 1865, engraved by Rudolf Leuzinger in Bern on behalf of the Land Surveyors Concordat. It is interesting to note that the place names on the map are indicated in German, although the municipality of Pompales is located in the middle of the canton of Vaud.

From the mid-19th century: first cantonal land register law

Surveys were carried out in the cantons, but in general these were isolated and uncoordinated. With the major urban development that began to take place around 1850, the recording of landownership rights gained higher importance than the taxation register. On 16 April 1860, the «Law on the establishment of a land register» was adopted in Basel. The experience gained there was highly influential in the creation of the Swiss Civil Code at the federal level 50 years later. 

1864: Land Surveyors Concordat to coordinate surveying

Following the initiative of the canton of Aargau, several cantons jointly formed the Land Surveyors Concordat, which pursued the objectives of freedom of professional movement and a common system of examination of surveyors, and laid down uniform regulations for surveying procedures.

The process of cadastral mapping using plane table surveys gradually gave way to polygonal traverse procedures.

Hand-sketched plan, 1870
Example of a hand-sketched plan from the “Drawings for the cadastre” from 1870 by the Land Surveyors Concordat: with polygons with orthogonal measurements instead of plane table.

1903: first national survey (1903 national survey, LV03)

The first Swiss geodetic network (first to third order triangulation) was established in the period from 1903 to approximately 1925. It was based on around 5,000 permanent control points of the 1903 national survey (LV03). For about 100 years, this formed the geodetic reference frame for surveying activities in Switzerland. 

Surveyor on the Chasseral, 1921
Surveyor on the Chasseral, 1921

1910: financial contribution by the federal government

The form and extent of the financial contribution by the federal government towards the cost of cadastral surveying were regulated by a federal resolution dated 13 April 1910.

Status of the cadastral survey, 1910
Map of Switzerland showing the status of the cadastral survey prior to the enactment of the Swiss Civil Code, with markings indicating where cantonal surveys existed for the tax and/or landownership cadastre.

1912: introduction of a federal land registry

Together with the introduction of the Swiss Civil Code it was decided to also establish a federal land registry. This meant that the federal government was now responsible for cadastral surveying, though its implementation was delegated to the cantons. The federal government remained the supervisory authority and assumed responsibility for a large portion of the development costs. Since then, landownership has been secured via entry in the land register.

1919: surveying regulations

With the introduction of two regulations in 1919 – one governing the fourth order triangulation and the other governing cadastral surveying and delimitation – legal provisions specifying the method and form of surveying entered into force.

Fourth order triangulation points.
Extract (reduced) from a fourth order triangulation

1923: delayed surveying programme

In accordance with the Resolution of the Federal Council dated 12 November 1923 on the general plan relating to the implementation of the cadastral survey (1923 cadastral surveying programme), the aim was for the cadastral survey to be completed by the end of 1976. However, the programme was severely delayed due to the promotion of land consolidation called for by the Federal Council in 1918 and the consequences of World War I.

Status of the cadastral survey, 1979
Map of Switzerland showing the status of the cadastral survey on 1 January 1979


Geodesy and Federal Directorate of Cadastral Surveying
Cadastral surveying and PLR Cadastre

Telephone +41 58 464 73 03


The commemorative publication is only available in German, French and Italien





Terms and abbreviations used in the Swiss cadastral surveying system

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