Skuta Alpine Shelter - Prefab Modular Mountain House

About OFIS Architects

Architects: AKT II, ​​Harvard GSD Students, OFIS Architects
Year: 2015
Photographs: Anze Cokl, Andrej Gregoric, Janez Martincic
Location: Zgornje Jezersko, Slovenia
Manufacturers: Guardian Glass, Rieder Group
Structural Engineering: AKT II, ​​London, United Kingdom; Hanif Kara; Edward Wilkes
Structural Engineer Local: Projecta, Milan Sorc
Engineering And Consulting: Freeapproved, Anze Cokl
Realization and Local Coordination: PD Ljubljana Matica, Slovenia; Matevz Jerman; Davor Rozman
Façade: Rieder Smart Elements, Austria; Wolfgang Rieder; Matthias Kleibel
Glass: Guardian, USA; Domen Komac
Bivouac Maintenance Representatives: Matevz Jerman; Davor Rozman
Main Contractor: Permiz d.o.o., Slovenia; Bostjan Perme
Anchoring and Fixing: Hilti, Slovenia
Thermal Installations and Fire Safety: ROCKWOOL stone wool
Construction Team: Alpinist section PD Ljubljana Matica, Visinska dela Orti; Team: Matevz Jerman, Jernej Ortar, Blaz Ortar, Davor Rozman, Natasa Vodopivec, Matevz Kastrin, Boris Mance, Boris Bokavsek, Luka Klemencic, Ziga Asic, Jernej Knop, Anze Klaric, Uros Grilj, Marko Granda, Boštjan Oblak
Helicopter flights: Slovenian Army - Tomaz Perse, Primoz Pintar, Andrej Groselj, Peter Smrkolj; Installation Support: Mountain Rescue Association of Slovenia, GRZS - Brane Zorz, Tadej Mrak, Bojan Goli
Client: PD Ljubljana Matica

The prefab modular mountain house project developed by an architectural design studio at Harvard Graduate School of Design led by Rok Oman and Spela Videcnik of OFIS. In the fall of 2014, studios of thirteen students faced the challenges of designing an innovative, yet practical, prefab house/shelter to meet the extreme needs of the alpine climate. Inspired by Slovenian vernacular architecture with its rich and diverse architectural heritage, students produced twelve proposals that met various terrain conditions, material considerations, and programmatic concerns were produced and cataloged.

The extreme climatic conditions in the mountains introduced a design challenge for architects, engineers and designers.

Within a context of extreme risk to environmental forces, it is important to design buildings that can withstand extreme weather conditions, radical temperature changes and rugged terrain. Responding to environmental conditions is not only a protective measure, but also translates into an issue of immediate safety of life. The harsh conditions of wind, snow, landslides, terrain and climate demand a response of specific architectural forms and conceptual projects.

120 years after the installation of the Aljaz Tower in August 1895 in Triglav, this new prefab modular shelter was inserted under the Skuta mountain in the Kamnik Alps. It replaces the old 50-year-old camp that was previously on site.

The camp is an object that represents a basic human need, a shelter. It is a symbol of refuge. The exterior shape and the choice of materials were made to respond to the extreme conditions of the mountain, and also provide views of the stunning landscape.

Its implantation in the wild requires respect for natural resources and, therefore, it should be implanted in a light and safe way to ensure that the shelter was strongly anchored with minimal impact on the terrain. In addition, the outer layer needed to be made of a highly resistant material, together with fiberglass and concrete elements for the facade, which were able to meet all the requirements of aesthetics, material quality and the challenge of withstanding the harsh conditions.

The interior design imposes modesty, totally subordinated to the function of the shelter providing accommodation for up to eight climbers.

Inspired by traditional alpine architecture by constructive elements, materials, structure and form, the design scheme made by students Frederick Kim, Katie MacDonald and Erin Pellegrino was selected. After the end of the school semester, OFIS architects and AKT ll structural engineers continued to develop and adapt the project for the given terrain, responding to other contributions from climbers, Anze Cokl, Milan Sorc and other engineers and led the project to the throughout the planning phase.

The design consists of three prefab modules, partly to allow transportation and also to divide the space programmatically. The first is dedicated to entry, storage and a small space for food preparation. The second provides space for both to sleep and socialize while the third has a bunk area for sleeping. Windows at both ends offer beautiful panoramic views of the valley and Skuta Mountain.

Due to the nature of the installation process, the prefab mountain house was designed as a series of modules, so that it can be brought in parts to the mountain. The entire prototype was built off-site, in a workshop. The modules were designed as a series of robust frames, which would be structured together on site, providing a manageable installation and a less invasive base. In order to disturb the terrain on the mountain as little as possible, the modules are secured with strategically placed pin connections, which also act as the foundation on the ground. Glass is a triple panel system that has been designed to withstand heavy loads of wind and snow. The camp was set up by Ljubljana Matica under the direction of Matevz Jerman, with transport by helicopter with support from the Slovenian Armed Forces and a Mountain Rescue Service team - Ljubljana Station. The entire transport and installation process was carried out in one day.

Although the scale of the prefab modular mountain house is small, the project required a lot of effort and planning from more than sixty participants who were mostly volunteers and sponsors. Everyone agrees that, despite the small size, the project was no less demanding than any major construction project. However, all the effort and planning for this small-scale project is aimed at maintaining the memory, spirit and culture of the mountains as a special place for Slovenians. The hope is that the modular house will serve as a shelter for all climbers in need, and that through their care and attention to the camp they will continue to use it for many years.



About OFIS Architects

Based in Ljubljana by Rok Oman and Špela Videčnik (1996)

Ljubljana, Slovenia

AddressTavčarjeva ulica 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Phone+386 1 426 00 84
Fax+386 1 4260085

Paris, France

AddressTavčarjeva ulica 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Phone+386 1 4260084
Fax+386 1 4260085

Skuta Alpine Shelter - Prefab Modular Mountain House