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Andrea Cassi, Michele Versaci, Dormillouse

Protection in black: Bivouac at the Dormillouse peak by Andrea Cassi and Michele Versaci

The 2,908-metre-high Dormillouse mountain at the border between Italy and France is primarily a destination popular with ski hikers. In 2019 the winter athletes gained a new shelter just below the summit: Rifugio Matteo Corradini, named for a mountaineer killed in an accident and commissioned by his family. The abstract, all-black volume composed of pre-fabricated timber panel elements was designed by the architects Andrea Cassi and Michele Versaci, who took as their reference point a black body or Plankian Radiator – a perfect radiation absorber that takes in all incident radiation and transforms it into heat. Fittingly the outer walls and roof are completely sheathed in dark standing seam cladding, the sole exception being at the sides, where two large windows offer sweeping views of the surrounding mountain panorama.

The interior contains a system of six step-like levels that act as seats and sleeping platforms on both sides of the entrance. This has enabled a telescopic shape that made it possible to reduce excavation work to a minimum, with only a quarter of the lower surface of the small structure resting on the ground.

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