TOURISM 12 In situations such as amusement parks, seaside resorts and other popular holiday destinations, an analogous architectural expression is rarely a problem. Everything there is dedicated to tourism – indeed, tourism shapes the entire surroundings and no holds are barred in tempting the visitor. Wilderness or nature tourism, however, calls for a difficult compromise. A tourist building in a wilderness has to be plainly visible and to occupy a location where travellers can reach it and will wish to take advantage of its accommodation. On the other hand, it must be shielded by its natural surroundings and if possible merge into them so thoroughly that it is practically invisible. The FOCUS ON ARCHITECTURE NO CATEGORY OF ARCHITECTURE IS MORE PLAYFUL OR MORE EXUBERANT THAN ARCHITECTURE DEDICATED TO TOURISM. Anything is possible, it seems, as long as it attracts attention and provides a spectacle that yanks the tourist out of the drudgery of daily life and bestows an exceptional experience. The main requirement on the architecture of tourism is be an icon of leisure. It must communicate at a glance the purpose of the building, the kind of entertainment to be expected there, the dreams it purports to realize and the longings it aims to address. This is all bound up with speed and temporariness. A tourist is a traveller and will not stay long; he or she must be seduced in a flash, before it is time to return home or move on elsewhere. It is a strategy that has parallels in the animal kingdom, where a mate must be secured within the bounds of a brief oestrus so that no seductive tactic is too costly to eschew: intricate song, extravagant plumage, bright colours, complex courtship rituals and heady perfumes. same paradox is present in wilderness tourism itself: people wish to enjoy the natural surroundings without feeling distracted by crowds of fellow tourists, yet they themselves inevitably disturb and undermine the tranquillity they seek. The architects responsible for these buildings generally aim at a design which iconic and immediately comprehensible, yet which harmonizes with the natural surroundings and relates to it more or less mimetically. Another analogy with nature arises here, for mimesis is raised to a fine art and is crucial to survival, if anywhere, in the animal kingdom.
MONTE ROSA HUT MONTA ROSA, SWISS (2009) The new Monte Rosa Hut is anything but self-effacing. The design of this alpine shelter is iconographic but with mimetic traits, at least in conception. The irregular polygonal shape and the shimmering aluminium skin suggest a piece of rock crystal such as one might conceivably find in the vicinity. But this is a crystal of gigantic proportions. What could have been mimesis is transformed by sheer scale into pure iconography. The shape, a sphere liberally chopped into an irregular polyhedron, is strong and defensive, holding its own against the harsh, rugged environment. It does not claim that this landscape could be inhabited in any normal sense. The uncompromising form has seemingly landed on that particular spot from outer space and is determined to survive there amid the hostile environment. The metal skin reflects the rocks, the sky, the snow and the sun, camouflaging the building so well that it blends almost perfectly into the landscape. It is this visual oxymoron of being there yet not being there that makes it such an intriguing design. The hut was built at an altitude of 2,883 metres on the western flank of Monte Rosa, within sight of the famous pyramid of the Matterhorn, on the Swiss side. It was designed by students and professors from the architectural department of ETH Zurich, and was completed in 2009. The Swiss Alpine Club had asked for a replacement of their old hut by a new design which would be highly sustainable in terms of energy and ecology. The Monte Rosa Hut harvests solar energy from eighty-five square metres of photovoltaic cells. Surplus electricity is stored in valve-regulated leadacid accumulators. Thermal energy is also recovered from the expelled ventilation airstream. Summer meltwater from the glaciers is collected and stored in a large reservoir, behind the permafrost barrier of the rocks. The target was ninety percent self sufficiency in energy. The Monte Rosa Hut doubles as a research station dedicated to studying efficiency in the use of energy and other resources. With its isolated location in the high Alps, it is in some respects an experiment in autonomous ecology. Some of its results will be specifically relevant to high mountain construction projects, but much of the research will have a general bearing on the urban environment. The foundations of the building are made of stainless steel, while the complex interior is fabricated entirely in wood. The beams in the restaurant area are decorated with incised lines like the contours on a topographical map. Tourism Architect: ETH Zurich Copyright: ETH-Studio Monte Rosa/Tonatiuh Ambrosetti 13