Dangling from the edge of an alpine cliff, this structure initially appears to be an optical illusion. The modern gabled huts on the cantilevered platform are mirrored underneath, upside-down and slightly stretched like a reflection on a body of water. But the structure is very real, and it’s just the latest stunning feature to be added to the Hotel Hubertus in South Tyrol by Italian studio Network of Architecture (noa*).
The Hotel Hubertus is set at the foot of a popular ski and hiking area called Kronplatz in Valdaora’s Puster Valley. “Hub of Huts” gazes out at this serene landscape from a high vantage point, its series of glass-walled structures collectively forming a “zen-like refuge” for the wellness-oriented hotel. It’s located on the southeast side of the complex, at the edge of a glass-bottomed and cantilevered pool noa* added to the hotel six years ago. The beautiful 82-foot-long water feature has since become the hotel’s star attraction, so the architects used it for inspiration when designing the Hub of Huts.
Architect and noa* founder Lukas Rungger explains that the firm thought about all the activities swimmers tend to do in the pool, like standing, sitting, floating horizontally, and diving upside-down. “Each of these positions have a different horizon, and from this interplay of perspectives, the idea of the project came to life.”
Emulating a small village, the huts contain showers, changing rooms, and additional pools on the upper side of the platform. Below, in the volumes that appear inverted, even more pools can be found, along with saunas, showers, and a foyer. The architects also hid a water purification system for the pools and tiered seating for the saunas within the upside-down gables. The warmth of the saunas and protection of the platform overhead make these spaces feel sheltered and almost subterranean despite their elevated position.
The aesthetic of the huts mimics those of the Hubertus Pool and the rest of the Hotel Hubertus, which was extensively renovated by noa* in 2016. In addition to adding 16 new suites, a new kitchen with restaurants, a wine cellar, and fitness and relaxation rooms, the firm created a new facade from native larch tree trunks. This rhythmic, undulating exterior connects the hotel’s old and new volumes and gives them a visual cohesiveness. The same debarked larch trunks are used as pillars for both the cantilevered swimming pool and the Hub of Huts.
The architects add that “the new pool, which imposingly rests in-between the two accommodation wings, seems like a floating rock, come to rest at the site, overlooking the valley. The hidden edges of the pool, kept in anthracite-colored stone, abolish the gap between pool and landscape, creating the impression of the water flowing into nothing, disappearing between pool and landscape. The pool metaphorically reminds [one] of a mountain lake, nestled into the astonishing mountainscape of the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Dolomites…”
Network of Architects is known for its spectacular and imaginative architectural creations, particularly in the areas of hospitality and cultural institutions. Also located in South Tyrol, its AEON hotel uses dramatic color contrasts and ultra-high ceilings to set a contemplative mood. The firm has also recently created a striking “floating” library for Milan based on the Tree of Knowledge, and a modular building system used as the basis for a sustainable community center.