THE FRENCH ALPSNew Heights

Alpine architecture is no longer limited to age-old wooden chalets, as visionary architects create modern masterpieces in the mountains.

THE FRENCH ALPS

New Heights

Alpine architecture is no longer limited to age-old wooden chalets, as visionary architects create modern masterpieces in the mountains.

When many people think of life in the Alps, they conjure images of cowbells, cosy chalets and cuckoo clocks. Many of the clichés, thankfully, are true. There is a wonderfully simple, slow side to life in the mountains. On one hand, it remains the land that time forgot, but on the other a contrasting side is revealing itself in an audacious display of striking angles, sensual curves and shimmering glass.

In the 1960s Bauhaus stalwart Marcel Breuer created one of the first examples of modern alpine architecture, with his space-age geometric designs for the resort of Flaine. In 2013, R Architecture picked up where Breuer left off, designing the mirror-clad, attention-grabbing, sharply-angled Pavillon d’Accueil de la Station, which serves as Flaine’s visitor centre. “The mirrored surface recalls its natural surroundings in a lively game of reflection,” says R Architecture’s co-founding architect Guillaume Relier, “allowing the building to move harmoniously with daily and seasonal rhythms. And the pavilion transforms itself into a beacon of soft light at night.”

While Breuer was busy striking his balance between function and imagination at Flaine in the 1960s, a trio of young French architects – Jacques Labro, Jean-Jacques Orzoni and Jean-Marc Roques – were designing what would be the architecturally award-winning resort of Avoriaz. Today Avoriaz is a captivating, zoomorphic world of acute angles and feathered timber, while other high-altitude contemporary icons range from Zaha Hadid’s sinuous, dynamic Bergisel Ski Jump in Innsbruck to Norman Foster’s curvaceous Chesa Futura Apartments in St Moritz.

“Modern architecture is not a style, but an attitude,” said Marcel Breuer. And nowadays the Alps have plenty of that. “Alpine architecture is no longer just guided by the myth of the mountain chalet,” adds Relier. “Mountain territory can answer to clean lines, purity and formality, too.” Just take a look at the Athena Advisers mountain portfolio and you’ll see how this attitude is manifesting itself in luxury chalets, all the way from Courchevel to Combloux, somehow embracing the sleek, stark or futuristic.

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