1.7.2019

Elements

An increasing trend in alpine context is the accessibility of mountain peaks. The demand for challenging projects within the alpine environment has significantly increased, along with the need for ultramodern cableway technology.

In this context, relevant architecture assumes a symbolic role, as one of the most effective marketing tools for defining regional identities and for projecting their resonance to the world. The ability to lead an accurate analysis of local features, detecting problems and translating potential challenges into inspiring outcomes, is a mandatory process for ‘authentic’ architecture. Successful architectural projects become ‘landmarks’, essential
dynamic engines for the recognition value of a region and its local economies.

Increasing interest from the media and reports on architectural highlights confirm and support this trend. Tourism resorts in the Ötztal Alps benefit enormously from the reach generated by contemporary landmarks.

In alpine environment, the connection between architecture and the natural element is a stronger than in other contexts, and therefore also the relevance of each intervention in relation to the environment.

Our approach strives for achieve innovative, site‐responsive architecture. We handle each assignment as a unique challenge requiring tailor‐made solutions. Our definition of ‘genuine’ architecture is arising from a thoughtful analysis of local specific characteristics, connecting and evaluating the environmental impact of the intervention and replying to it with a responsible gesture.

Vision and methodology

Our approach to architecture believes in sustainable responsibility: we require highly innovative solutions in design and engineering, as well as energy optimisation and thoughtful choice of materials. To achieve the goal we favour an interdisciplinary exchange, where synergies can arise and unexplored paths be pursued.

Every of our projects carries an architectural vision, a statement, an idea, through a feasibility process. When we designed the building for 007 Elements, we were willing to create a durable gesture embodying its times, ecologically sustainable, appropriate to the context and fulfilling the program it was designed for.

Our architectural approach aims at an innovative, site related architecture, each assignment handled as an individual case requiring tailor‐made solutions.

Our aesthetics usually adopt a minimalistic approach: programmatically we tend to include all ideas responding to the assignment; formally and aesthetically instead, we filter and reduce until we reach the essence.

With 007 Elements, the desire to realise a project with impressive architecture was present from the start. We were willing to incorporate the dramatic natural environment in the interior spaces. Wide openings selectively frame spectacular views, establishing visual connections to the film locations of Spectre: the Glacier Road, the ice Q Restaurant, the Ventertal and Rettenbachtal Valleys. The acoustic staging enhances this sensorial and visual experience.

Design criteria precisely regulated in other building typologies, such as structural and physical requirements, had to be newly developed for this extreme location. Designing at high altitude is an adventurous journey. Curiosity and a passionate approach were our driving forces.

While designing the architecture for 007 Elements, we wanted to create ambivalent spaces, where to experience the multifaceted realities of James Bond. Initially we were looking for inspiration in the work of the Bond Production Designer Ken Adam.

To best embody the philosophy of the installation’s contents, curated by Neal Callow (Creative and Art Director on the last four Bond films) and Tino Schaedler (Head of Design at creative agency Optimist Inc.), we kept an intense and open exchange‐process.

Our initial idea to exclude heating or cooling systems was to let the natural element and the alpine climate permeate the interiors, to make sure that  visitors inside would not forget where 007 Elements is located, on a 3.040m high mountaintop.

Design Process

Elements is a cinematic installation, the experience is closer to a film than a museum in the traditional sense. Its location at 3.040 meters above sea level, the breath taking natural scenery and the dramatic climate changes make the whole setting unique and spectacular.

We wanted to create an exhibition reality differing from usual installations, a place where opposites can coexist, where contemporary reality and futuristic, virtual worlds could merge.

Spatial sequences have been planned as mainly introverted spaces, to allow the senses to sharpen up and fully commit to the Bond world. Our first design proposal was a two‐storey concrete cube, piercing the ridge, projecting on both sides beyond the abyss, with exhibition spaces connected by suspended bridges. Then the geological circumstances led to several alternative solutions. Various studies, exploring spectacular approaches near the cable car station, proved to be not suitable for the existing ensemble at the summit. Following the philosophy of the creative concept, we developed
new ideas.

In the final design, we developed the concepts ‘inside the mountain’ and ‘iceberg principle’. Nine free concrete chambers were the result of this process, connected by ramps and located in the mountain. The path through the exhibition unfolds through slightly inclined, almost unnoticeable descending levels, an alternation of sophisticated spatial sequences: sloping‐narrow, dark, wide‐bright‐extroverted, real‐virtual, slender‐high, compact‐stretched, polygonal, cylindrical and so on. At the end of this journey, a steep stunning mountain panorama suddenly stands at the visitor’s feet.

Architect Obermoser recalls:

“10 years ago, when I took the task of developing the ‘Gaislachkogl’, entering a world of boundless freedom and unattainable beauty, it became clear to me that it had to be preserved and protected. I designed the ‘Gaislachkogl’ Cable Car Mountain Station in my own architectural language, as a light and transparent shelter, strong enough to withstand the extreme weather conditions. There is a principle saying: you get back what you give. In this respect arose the ‘ice Q’ restaurant, its glazed body being an open and intimate gesture in honest dialogue between man and the natural environment, the inside and outside merging into an unique interplay of infinite variety. I have to thank from the heart the project developer Jack Falkner (managing director of Bergbahnen Sölden) for his role in my journey, for his constant support and trust, the outcome of which we were during the process not aware of.”

Materialisation and Engineering

A reduced material’s selection — concrete, steel and glass — was an essential component of the design concept. We wanted materials to embody the  archaic strength of the environment and represent the modern aesthetic of the Bond brand. We chose a raw, minimalist and bare setting, hosting and contrasting with high technology, timeless and innovative elements, able to withstand extreme temperature fluctuations.

Exhibition rooms and furnishings are made of precast‐concrete. Oversize stainless steel doors emphasize the transition spaces through the chambers, while perforated black steel panels, used for suspended ceilings and acoustic claddings, enhance the soundproofing. We created contrasts of light and dark.

Highly innovative design and engineering solutions, as well as an energetic optimisation, were essential to us. Clever solutions reflecting the latest technological options were the result of this process. The choice of avoiding heating and cooling effected and pushed technology to its limits, as it had to function at temperatures above and below zero.

At an altitude of 3.040 meters, we have been dealing with permafrost. This unstable soil, a frozen rock conglomerate in perpetual adjustment to temperature fluctuations, is a challenging foundation to build on. As with the Gaislachkogl Cable Car Stations and the ice Q restaurant, we have again employed naturally ventilated foundations. Cuffs adjusting to the movements of the rock conglomerate flexibly connect the concrete cubes.

The project faced significant construction obstacles. Geological fault lines, the exposed location on the peak and the extremely short building span due to adverse weather conditions, created huge challenges. The crew could not work for more than a few weeks at a time, therefore the people‐crew on site had to work on rotation shifts. During the construction phase, the weather turned out as one the worst winters in the last 15 years, snowfall started in July, while in winter, storms and massive snowfall prevented us from getting vehicles to the site, so we ended up having to fly the concrete in by helicopter.

The structure reaches a volume of ca. 8.500 m3 and the exhibition surface counts approximately 1.200 m2.

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