Situated in Lauenen, a small Swiss village 7 km away from the popular ski resort of Gstaad, the project involved developing a masterplan to locate a 2,500 m2 complex of residential units and underground garage. SSA undertook the design and execution of the middle of the three chalets, bringing contemporary design to a traditional type of chalet dwelling.
The unusual aspect of the site faces out onto the only sunny face of the valley, overlooking a Late Gothic village church and cemetery built in 1520, as well as a glacier and its magnificent waterfalls. Both the site and the village are breathtaking and truly belong to a different century. All three chalets achieve relatively unobstructed views and direct access, while sharing underground parking and mechanical plant facilities.
The brief for the chalet asked to provide two distinct apartments. By splitting the chalet into two interlocking L-shapes, two distinct residences are able to share one common entrance. With the further removal of one non-structural wall, the two apartments could be reconfigured into one large residence, with minimal reconstruction.
Local planning regulations influenced the building height, size, and pitch of the roof, and were imposed to keep a uniform and traditional aspect to the entire village. SSA undertook an in-depth study of the chalet as a building type in order to understand the roots of the design and its divergence from the original peasant structure over time. The interpretation resulted in a purposefully sober and bold approach to the façade composition, using the farm typology in its most basic and original format.
All materials are kept in their rawest and most natural form, where the coolness of exposed concrete contrasts against the richness of the local roughened woodwork on the walls and ceilings. The floors are treated with over-sized birch whitened planks, creating variance in texture and bringing softness to the whole space. Large concrete walls were conceived to be adorned with large artworks. The lighting was planned early on in the project so that it could be seamlessly integrated within the exposed concrete ceilings.
An expressive staircase is also used as illumination, where large sheets of semi-opaque glass structurally support a light timber stair. The opalescence of the glass conducts both the natural light from the skylights above during the day, while being bottom lit at night, turning the stairs into a soft light source at the core of the living area. The movement of people behind the glass adds to the drama of the space, and allows for a striking effect of multiple perceptions when looking through the glass.
Due to the planning restrictions and the slope of the site, half of the ground floor would be below grade. Introducing an additional sub-level with a large glazed opening cut into the slope, SSA were able to increase the expected number of bedrooms to ten, as well as introducing large open-plan living areas with triple ceiling heights. The two lower-level bedrooms are configured so that at a later stage, these can easily be transformed into a swimming pool.
The site restraints also implied that the depths of the chalet would be deprived of sunlight. The solution anchored around creating a six metre high exposed concrete light well with a reflector at its core, bringing light into the depth of the plan. The result is a polished steel tunnel that connects the upper apartment living area to the master bedroom, while acting like a giant light reflector in the lower apartments.