Slovenian architectural firm OFIS recently teamed up with AKT II engineers and design students from Harvard Graduate School of Design to create an innovative alpine shelter. Located amid the harsh mountaintops of Mount Skuta in Slovenia, the new shelter replaces a rusty 50 year old bivouac (storm refuge) and provides humble accommodation for up to eight hikers. Perched amid an extreme alpine environment, the modular shelter was broken down into three sections and flown into its new home by helicopter.
"The extreme climatic conditions in the mountains introduced a design challenge for architects, engineers and designers," says OFIS architects. "Within a context of extreme risk to environmental forces, it was important to design a building that can withstand extreme weather, radical temperature shifts and rugged terrain."
Taking these harsh environmental factors into consideration, the new alpine shelter has been built to withstand extreme winds, snow loads and landslides. The building features three distinct layers, comprising an outer shell, structural frame and interior shell. The outer shell is made from fiber reinforced concrete cladding, while a steel core makes up the structural frame and the internal shell is made from Larch timber panels. Furthermore, triple-glazed structural glass was used for the shelter’s large windows, not only offering a safe refuge but a comfortable environment for adventurers to enjoy some quiet time and the extraordinary views.
In order to reach its final extreme destination, the shelter was mostly prefabricated off-site and broken down into three separate sections. Each module was then flown in via helicopter and securely connected together, before being anchored to the ground. This was all achieved while having very little impact on the existing site and surrounding landscape.
"The modules were planned as a series of robust frames, which were then braced together on-site, providing a manageable installation and a less invasive foundation," says OFIS. "In order to keep the mountain site as undisturbed as possible, the modules were fastened onto strategically placed pin connections, which also act as the foundation on the site."
Furthermore, the shelter's three distinct modules help divide the interior space into different living quarters. The first module features the entrance, storage space and a compact food preparation zone. The second module offers an open space for relaxing and socializing, which can also double as an additional sleeping area, while the third module features a series of wooden built-in bunk beds.
"The hope is that the bivouac will serve as a shelter for all of the climbers who need it, and that through their care and attention the bivouac will continue to do so for many years," says OFIS.
The Mount Skuta alpine shelter is available for use by local mountain climbers in the Kamnik Alps, Slovenia. At 8,307 ft (2532 m) Mount Skuta is the third highest peak within the Kamnik Alps and is famous for the glacier located on its severe north wall. Both the North and North East tracks take hikers to a stunning plateau which features a 1,640 ft (500 m) sheer drop above the glacier.
Be sure to check out the extensive gallery and see just how the OFIS architects got this shelter up to its dramatic mountain top.