At 3,026m above sea level in Italy’s Aurina valley, stifter + bachmann has realized an unusually-shaped mountain hut called ‘Sasso Nero’. The name of this six-story refuge translates to “black stone”, and similarly to how a rock is eroded by the wind, the building’s form has been shaped to withstand hurricane-level gusts. As well as withstanding the severe winds, the refuge is also designed with as small a footprint as possible. For this reason, stifter + bachmann stacked the program in six levels that bend slightly at the top and the bottom. The first floor is home to a restaurant and dining space with a ribbon window that affords a 360° panoramic view of the incredible mountain scenery.
The two lower levels contain services while the top three storys provide sleeping accommodation for up to 50 hikers. Guest rooms are designed for two or ten persons and they also offer scenic alpine views with small, irregularly positioned picture-frame windows. With these stacked floors, the architectural footprint in the landscape is kept to a minimum, as the hut touches the ground below only along narrow strip foundations that are anchored in the rock. Apart from the staircase, all of the interiors and all of the furniture is made from or clad in natural spruce. The use of one continuous material makes sasso nero feel like a large piece of inhabitable furniture.
The exterior of the building is encased in copper, for two reasons. Firstly, due to the fact that this metal was mined in the aurina valley until the end of the 19th century. Secondly, stifter + bachmann also specified copper for its color and for how it changes over time. The copper has already lost much of its shine and original color. And in fact, if you see the refuge now, its exterior matches the black of the stone.
With its tricky to reach location, Sasso Nero took two summers to erect on site. Structural elements had to be prefabricated in the valley below before being hoisted into place by a crane, which was also taken apart into several pieces to reach the mountain via a specially-built cable car. This system helped to minimize the number of helicopter flights needed. The two basement levels were constructed with prefabricated concrete elements while the structure of the upper floors, the furniture and the wall-facings inside are made of timber. The floors are made of sanded and sealed screed.
You can arrive to Sasso Nero after a three-and-a half hour ascent from the valley (though this not one of the hardest mountain to climb). During this difficult approach, the building suddenly vanishes before emerging again as an impressive architectural symbol poetically encased in copper. Also be sure to check other examples of nodern architecture.