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Child’s Play The Skuta Alpine Shelter

Ofis Arhitekti

Child’s Play The Skuta Alpine Shelter

Mountain shelters always present a daunting challenge for an architect. Extreme climate, locations where conventional foundations are often impossible, limited construction timeframes and size constraints requiring well-nigh obsessive spatial rationalization, are just some of the factors to contend with. Unsurprisingly, the mountain shelter is a favourite technological and design exercise for many a school of architecture, obliging students to consider a range of inescapable constraints with a blend of architectural and engineering know-how and prowess. If the workshop exercise can then be translated into a built structure, the result is a small miracle: a prototype.

Slovenian architecture practice OFIS arhitekti recently took up the challenge. Together with a clutch of sponsors and volunteers, it built a singular alpine shelter on Mount Skuta, the third highest peak in the Kamnik Alps north of Ljubljana. The project was originally an assignment during the first semester of the 2014 Harvard Graduate School of Design course supervised by OFIS founder members Rok Oman and Špela Videčnik. The studio project involved thirteen students who developed twelve solutions. The brief demanded their Alpine shelter reference vernacular Slovenian architecture, apply a series of different parameters depending on the various local conditions, use appropriate construction materials, and catalogue the results obtained in a sort of register of possible innovative solutions, all of which had to be practical and feasible to implement. At the conclusion of the course, the project designed by students Frederick Kim, Katie MacDonald and Erin Pellegrino was chosen to go forward to the prototype stage. This was subsequently built and put in place by OFIS in Slovenia together with a broad-based team that included, among others, British engineering firm AKT II and mountaineers Anže Čokl and Milan Sorč. This planning phase proved as complex as designing a much larger...

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