Reinventing the Alps: from Andermatt to Zermatt, ambitious building projects involving some world-famous architects reflect a fundamental change in the orientation of Alpine resorts. It's no longer all about skiing.

Author:Krienke, Mary
Position:NEWS FEATURE
 
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The face of the Alps is changing. Breaking away from traditional, chalet-inspired architecture and a strong emphasis on winter sport, projects now on the drawing board are forward-looking both in concept and year-round orientation.

This is seen as the only way to ensure viability against the all too apparent warnings of climate change, while also helping to amortize huge investments in ski and non-ski-related infrastructure.

In Andermatt, golf shares equal billing with skiing in the planned "comprehensive and self-sustaining resort town"--the most ambitious Alpine project by far.

Seven luxury hotels with 800 rooms, 400 vacation apartments, 50 vacation homes, an 18-hole golf course, artificial lakes with sandy beaches, swimming pool, concert hall, ice rink and stadium, shops, restaurants and a two-level underground car park will occupy an area covering 1.5 million square metres. The project, undertaken by Orascom Hotel & Development, part of the huge Egyptian Orascom Group, will cost more than SFr 1.0 billion.

The 'resort town' will stand apart from Andermatt itself, on land vacated by the Swiss Army, according to Franz Egle, a member of the board of the local Andermatt Alpine Destination Company.

The project received the overwhelming support (96 per cent) of the local populace in a 2006 vote, with virtually no opposition from environmental groups.

"We expect to receive final approval of the 'footprint' of the plan--including traffic access, security and energy, which will come from underground and solar sources--from the local authorities by the end of this year. Construction should begin in 2009," Egle says.

A team is currently selecting architects for the various components. "It will combine contemporary architecture with an Alpine flavour, but we don't intend to provide a platform for star architects."

Architectural landmarks

Star architects shine at recently completed or planned hotel projects in Arosa and Davos, all of which emphasise their year-round appeal.

The Tschuggen Bergoase spa, designed by Mario Botta, opened in 2006 in Arosa, adding contemporary cachet to the 80-year-old Tschuggen Grand Hotel, and an unmistakable visual landmark to the town.

The futuristic stone complex is topped by nine glass 'sails' that bring sunlight into the centre of the well-being oasis, with its full spectrum of wellness/fitness facilities, including indoor and outdoor pools and spacious relaxation area. When it is lit at night...

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