Taking architecture to new peaks

Nick Myall
Tuesday 07 Jul 2015

Herzog & de Meuron have created a summit building on a Swiss mountain that respects the site’s stunning surroundings

With picturesque topography and unspoilt landscapes, the historical Swiss region of Toggenburg has long been a tourist destination of choice for local residents. Chäserrugg, the easternmost of the seven peaks that comprise the region's Churfirsten Massif, has boasted a popular restaurant and cable car station for holidaymakers in the region since 1972.

However, the original structure was never meant to house a public space that would stand the test of time. In fact, it was originally built as a temporary accommodation unit for construction workers so Herzog & de Meuron were commissioned to create a new landmark building on the mountain’s summit.

This original structure was demolished to make way for Herzog & de Meuron's new build, which incorporated the original concrete and steel foundation with a brand new facade. The scheme has been designed to increase business during summer months, and give tourists more options during the already profitable winter. A sustainable landscape strategy was employed with the structure’s form echoing the style the region’s vernacular wooden architecture, while respecting the site’s surroundings.

“We used wood in order to develop a language and materiality that suits the Toggenburg region,” explains Christine Binswanger, senior partner in charge, “but without resorting to the usual Alpine cliches.”

The architectural practice's talent for referencing local heritage without resorting to pastiche is well known.

“The project was executed by craftspeople from the valley,” explains Binswanger. “Because local companies were involved, those working on the project were committed heart and soul, making sustainable use of resources possible.”

Set back from the actual summit, the building is accessed via cable-car and, in addition to the restaurant and its adjoining terrace, contains a hall available for concerts and cultural events. Designed to accommodate up to 500 guests, an upper storey offers space for seminars, meetings and private functions.

Sheltered beneath a large sloping roof, the restaurant runs along one side of the structure, making the most of the panoramic Alpine views with three floor-to-ceiling glazed windows. Sitting perpendicular is the station, connected to the restaurant by a large roofed area. Although this is a small undertaking compared to some of the Swiss architecture team's better known projects, it is nevertheless an excellent example of their skill and vision.

Nick Myall
WAN News Editor

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