by Anmol AhujaJan 20, 2021
Hygge, the Danish concept of peace and contentment in a moment is a rather abstract, fleeting idea, but one that is invariably sewn into every act of architecture or “home-making” hailing from the land of the Danes, and the Norwegians. For individuals seeking avenues to escape the rush of city life, and to reconnect with nature, that concept would probably manifest itself on a site and retreat like this: the 48° Nord landscape hotel at Breitenbach: an architecture that interestingly not only pursues the evocation of this fleeting concept in its design, but also proposes a modernistic reinvention of traditional principles as a way to possibly achieve the same.
Proposing a unique concoction of French and Danish cultures, through a site that draws from the region’s immense natural and wellness opportunities, and ways of building that seek to draw from Nordic and Scandinavian cultures, the Breitenbach landscape hotel proposes a holistic eco-tourism experience. Designed by a collaboration between Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter and ASP Architecture for a Franco-Danish client, the 48° Nord is located at the heart of a protected Natura 2000 site, offering a natural retreat for its patrons, while at the same time preserving its jungle-like environ. This unique and inviting hamlet located between Vosges and Alsace in France houses a dynamic community committed to an ecologically responsive approach and several activities including an ecological brewery, beehives, dairy and cheese production, and organic farming that seal that maxim.
“The project goal was not to build a hotel per se, but creating a place to live, a habitat to welcome people and take them on a sensual journey by experiencing a new universe in natural surroundings. A place where guests come to meet people and have a moment, whether to share a meal, a weekend of rest or to hike the Vosges hills and valleys,” states the architects’ official release on the precursor to their design. Building on the same thought, the masterplan of the site too scatters 14 cabins on the hillside like boulders lined along a slope. Placed so as to ensure each of the cabins’ guests have complete privacy while being at one with nature, the design also attempts to meld with its lush surroundings and integrate with its landscape.
Modelled on a traditional Scandinavian “hut”, or “cottage”, the Hytte, its material choice and sobriety in overall palette is also clearly reflective of that approach. The main building catering to the hotel complex, its administrative centre, is also dedicated to hospitality, catering and wellness, and is the first building one encounters upon entering the site. The structure is fashioned in Alsatian chestnut shingles, made from one of only four trees that RRA claims to have been sent to the chipper during construction. The main building, along with the cabins also derive from the German Passivhaus technique for sustainable architecture, padded with dark stained wood. A green breakout space for meeting, exchange and contemplation lies just outside this building to lead patrons up to their individual cabins.
With the idea of minimum “permanent” alterations to the site, the cabins are simply “placed” on the hillside. Built on stilts, each of the cabins is removable, so to say, and its superstructure can be easily moved if the need arises, in an effort to keep the natural landscape preserved and untouched, as much as possible. Locally sourced chestnut from trees on the site, untreated, is used to clad all volumes, contrasted by large, angular glass openings. The 14 cabins comprise a total of four distinct typologies and forms, also lending to the choices and tariff structures that the hotel offers. The first, the “Grass” (Gress) Hytte are universally accessible on one level and are grouped near the main building. The “Tree” (Tre) and “Ivy” (Eføy) are towering structures, slender and vertical, providing tilted windows for breathtaking panoramic views. Lastly, the most secluded and premium category of accommodations, the “Mountain” (Fjell) cabins are perched atop the hill and are suited to large families, with protected outdoor spaces. All of the cabins, while economically and intimately planned, follow a common underlying interior scheme that is at once rustic and minimal. Snug built in furniture, large, framed views without obstructions, and light coloured wood ambits nearly every nook of individual cabins: all in-keeping with the architecture’s pursuit of Hygge.
The hotel also fashions itself as a culinary experience, apart from a natural and intimate one. The cuisine is a meeting between Scandinavian and local ancestral techniques over season-relevant tastes from nature, all sourced from nearby organic producers and the hotel’s own vegetable garden. While stating peace, calm, space, privacy, sobriety, fresh air, and proximity to nature as the new luxuries, 48° Nord Landscape Hotel redefines luxury without indulging in the superfluous.
Name: Breitenbach Landscape Hotel: 48° Nord
Location: Breitenbach, France
Client: Private - Emil Leroy-Jönsson
Size: 20,000m2 (Total planning area), Hytte: From 20m2 to 60m2
Status: Completed (2020)
Design Team: Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter & ASP Architecture