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Cabin, OFIS, Mountains, Slovenia

Compact mountain hut: winter bivouac high up on an Alpine mountain in the Kanin range

The Kanin mountain range near Bovec on the border between Slovenia and Italy is a popular hiking and skiing area.  The tiny volume of the winter bivouac rests on a broad col 2,260 metres above sea level and is thus exposed to the storms, radical temperature shifts and large quantities of snow that are typical of a high Alpine climate. As such it is one of several prototypes developed by the architects to test architectural forms, structures and materials in their research into building in extreme climatic conditions.

The mini-hut in the Kanin Mountains is a compact, timber structure clad in aluminium, and as such measures a mere 2.40 metres wide and 4.90 metres long. The structure is held in place by steel plates fixed to concrete foundations and is additionally secured by six steel cables. Half of the volume cantilevers over the rock face, its narrow end fully glazed to provide views to the valley below. The interior, which is no larger than ten square metres in area, offers two spatially differentiated areas: a front part featuring benches and shelf-like surfaces and a back part made up of three sleeping platforms with room for up to nine people to spend the night – and who, while still recumbent, can gaze through the large fixed-glazed panoramic window at the front for views that reach all the way to the Adria on clear days. The interior is formed out of 6-centimetre-thick triple-layer sandwich panels, whereby the surfaces have merely been sanded, and creates a warm and pleasant atmosphere.  Natural cross ventilation is ensured by openable perforated elements in the floor and on the upper edge of an opposite wall.

Since the area can only be reached on foot or by helicopter, the modules had to be of a size and weight suitable for transportation by such aircraft. After they had been flown to the site, the solid timber elements, glazing sections and further components were assembled by volunteers, who also mounted the insulation, the wind-resistance bracing and the aluminium composite panels that form the outer skin. The mountain refuge was completed in this way in three days.

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