The indelible charm of the alpine has held on for over 150 years. We present a handpicked selection of the latest crop of hotels and chalets that are changing the face of mountain architecture.
Renowned for their warm timber panelling, sheep-skin rugs and cosy fires, traditional chalets are a world away from the sleek minimalist movement that has captured the imaginations of the world’s preeminent architects of today. However, it seems that the Alpine charm, which has remained largely intact for over 100 years, is the latest to fall under the contemporary spell with more and more chalets being redesigned or built.
SO WHERE DID IT BEGIN?
Much of what we consider traditional mountain architecture and style can be traced back to Badrutt’s Palace in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Established in 1896, this hotel was the first to glamourise the mountain as a winter destination. After purchasing the former Hotel Beau Rivage, Johanne Badrutt sought about remodelling the building, re-opening a few years later as a wellness spa. Largely populated by the British, who considered Switzerland as a summer destination, Badrutt sensed an opportunity to entice his clientele to remain longer and extend the season over the winter months. Deciding to orchestrate a daring and now legendary gamble, he bet a handful of his most well heeled clientele to stay free for as long as they wished over the winter period. If they were in any way disappointed by the experience he would refund their travel costs. The result was an overwhelming success and established the first winter season over 150 years ago today.
A NEW ERA
Badrutt’s Palace is significant as it defined Alpine style and put it on the world stage accordingly setting the standard from which all future ski resorts and chalets, from Chamonix and Zermatt to further afield in Aspen and Whistler, would strive to emulate. The snow topped timber structures and quaint village atmosphere are all deeply rooted in St. Moritz’s heritage. However the time has come for traditional Alpine architecture and style to evolve. With winter sports increasing in popularity year on year, the slopes are attracting an increasingly discerning clientele whose preference for a more modern standard of living has driven the trend for change. Here we present a selection of the architects and chalets that have raised mountain architecture to new heights.
BANDA APPROVED CHALETS
MODERN CHALET, KRONENPLATZ, ITALY PEDEVILLA ARCHITECTS
Set in the UNESCO world heritage site of Italy’s Dolomite mountain range, Armin Pedevilla’s sleek eco-chalet fits seamlessly within its rocky surrounds. Located in the ski resort of Kronenplatz, a few kilometres from San Vigilio, the property was designed by the architect as a rural retreat for him and his family. Executed in the firm’s signature minimalist approach, it demonstrates a pitch perfect balance between contemporary design and local traditions.
First and foremost an eco-chalet, the property produces its own energy via integrated thermal and solar panels. Opting to clad the structure in black timber, the home has been designed to reflect the immediate landscape with the staircase and interior windows constructed from local pine. Inside, whitewashed concrete walls set off the bespoke furniture, whilst the huge windows offer uninterrupted views of the valley below.
SPLIT VIEW MOUNTAIN LODGE – BASKERUD, NORWAY REIULF RAMSTAD ARKITEKTER
Designed for a private client by Norwegian uber-architects, Reiulf Arkitekter, this mountain lodge has been designed as a celebration of the great outdoors. The unique split level property has been constructed almost wholly from timber. The timber used for the exterior cladding has been specifically chosen as this will ‘silver’ over time, gradually uniting the lodge with the local topography. The interior features a very high grade timber, painstakingly selected with no noticeable knots. Larger plywood panels have been used for the kitchen units with polished concrete offering a warm contrast throughout.
The 130 square meter, split-view arrangement grants the owners an unusual use of space with the separate sleeping and living areas lined by the central kitchen. This provides a dual benefit. Firstly, by creating a continuous link to all sections, the floorpan unites all family members no matter which area of the property they are using. Secondly, wherever one is standing, the eye is drawn out and through the large glass windows to the surrounding valley below.
The architects explain “The mountain lodge is a continuation of Norwegian developing traditions in type and materiality, perched beautifully inside its landscape and responding to its context ….”
BANDA APPROVED HOTELS
Whilst many of the hippest interior trends can be found in the finest hotels, these establishments are rarely the first to showcase them to the design world. There are many reasons for this but the most significant probably lies in the extensive time it takes to build and design a hotel in comparison to a single dwelling. Equally, as these are run first and foremost as a commercial venture, hotels are less inclined to be perceived as taking a risk with daring architecture and/or interior design as it may well affect the project’s overall success.
As a result, the hospitality industry uses the design and architecture community as a testing platform and it is clear that they have decided to embrace the contemporary movement when it comes to alpine architecture. Driven by hoteliers bold enough to consider themselves trendsetters, a number of spectacular contemporary mountain establishments have begun to set tongues wagging. There is no better indication of a trend’s permanence status than when it is wholehearted embraced by this community and it can be said without much trepidation that the relationship between contemporary architecture and the mountain is only just beginning to blossom.
From Italy to Switzerland via Austria, we present a selection of the finest examples around:
THE WIESERGUT HOTEL, AUSTRIA ARCHITECTURE GOGL & PARTNER ARCHITEKTEN
Originally a 14th Century family estate, owners Joseph and Martina Kroll have transformed these existing complex of buildings into a stunningly contemporary hotel. Situated directly on the slopes of Saalbach-Hinterglemm, their renovated design comprises a central four-story lodge surrounded by a selection of smaller buildings all compete with floor to ceiling windows.
Constructed by local studio, Gogl Architekten, the structures utilise a carefully curated combination of contrasting materials that include local wood, natural stone, granite, glass and exposed concrete. Formed of 17 suites and 7 garden suites, the interiors have been designed using bespoke furnishings from a select ensemble of Austria’s greatest designers. The result is a refreshingly modern establishment that sits seamlessly within the surrounding landscape.
EDEN HOTEL – BORMIO, ITALY ANTONIO CITTERIO PATRICIA VIEL & PARTNERS
Located in the small municipality of Bormio in Italy’s Alta Valtelline Valley, the Eden Hotel’s form is a stark contrast to the surrounding architecture, yet demonstrates a harmonious balance to the local topography. This was a conscious decision taken by the Archictect, Antonio Cittero, who chose to create a hotel that didn’t subscribe to the traditional “Natale con la neve” (Christmas with snow).
Comprised of four narrow structures arranged in a line and enclosed by a chestnut fence, his design focussed instead on the modern lifestyle and sustainability. Glass panels were used to keep the 27 rooms warm alongside integrated insulating packages placed around the perimeter to maximize passive heat exchange.
The interior design showcases a contemporary take on the traditional Italian chalet. Grey slatted timber walls are offset by warm earthy tones and furnishings in plaid, leather and fur. For Cittero, the project is deeply personal: “An architect is like a tailor. They design outfits for clients. Some they would wear themselves; others they would not. This, I would wear.”
HOTEL CHETZERON – CRANS MONTANA, SWITZERLAND ACTESCOLLECTIFS ARCHITECTES
Formed from an abandoned gondola station and restaurant, Lebanese hotelier Sami Laama along with Lausanne based Actecollectifs have created one of the highest and most remote hotels in world. Perched 2,112 meters above sea level in Switzerland’s Crans Montana, the cutting-edge hotel offers guests unparalleled views of the rugged mountain landscape below.
The conversion, rather than restricting the design possibilities, offered the architects the ability to create extraordinary volumes for a high-mountain hotel, as the large concrete structures typical of industrial buildings have been kept to provide a new visual atmosphere full of light.
Comprised of 16 suites, the austere concrete and stone structure manages to blend in with its dramatic surroundings. The position, high above the Rhone Valley, was integral to the design of the hotel. The architects explain that the landscape “becomes an integral part of the decor of the various spaces due to the large picture windows, and subtle dimming of the lights shows the grandeur of the circus of the Valais Alps to the south.’
The interiors are comprised of natural materials, notably featuring oak and stone to contrast the industrial architecture and window frames throughout the building. Similarly to the other hotels on this list, much care has been taken to ensure the building remains environmental viable. Among the many elements incorporated into the design, the hotel boast 50m2 of solar panels and 200m2 of photovoltaic panels used to generate electricity and heat.