In Italy’s Alpine Tyrol, a Lakeside Hut Merges with All Four Seasons

Designed by local studio noa*, the public recreational structure is made with versatile woods and native materials that help blend with the dynamic landscape.
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The gable is common in alpine regions where it lessens the heavy snow load on the structure. The sites original lake house kiosk was gabled and architects noa* wanted to preserve some of the scale and forms of that antecedent in their new construction. Courtesy Alex Filz

In a design that synthesizes deference for both the natural and the manmade, the unswervingly modern and the native vernacular, Network of Architecture (noa*) completed a 120-square-meter recreational facility last August. Lake House Völs appears to float like a raft on the surface of the Völser Weiher Lake in Italy’s South Tyrol region. The area is part of a scenic nature reserve that offers the public year-round access to activities ranging from swimming, bicycling, and hiking to ice skating. 

A Bolzano, Italy– and Berlin-based office, noa* removed a small, aging kiosk, replacing it with two volumes set at right angles to one another. The scale of the new architecture remains invitingly small and cabin-like, but is clean-lined and contemporary, too. Noa* skillfully merged the lake house with the lake, mountain, and forest scenery through the use of minimal but traditional forms and local materials.

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The open wooden frame construction serves as a walkway, outdoor shower, and trellis for climbing plants that will help camouflage the lake house in warmer months. Courtesy Alex Filz

For example, the property is fronted by a generous wooden deck, or jetty, that carves out space for sunbathing or socializing amidst wild vegetation. In plan, the main volume tapers from front to back and holds a snack bar, public changing rooms, and sanitary facilities. (“We wanted to open the building in the direction of the lake,” the team says, “starting from the forest to the surface of the water and creating a sort of formal momentum.”)

Beneath a broadly gabled roof, the larger volume of the snack bar extrudes into an open loggia and terrace, forming an indoor-outdoor area. The gable, commonly used in alpine areas to lessen the load of heavy snowfall, serves multiple purposes here, while giving a tip of the hat to the traditional saddle roof of the original kiosk. “In our building, the gable serves to protect the guests, framing the view on the lake while offering a sheltered place,” says noa* cofounder Stefan Rier, “but the extension of the roof also became a shading canopy for the hottest summer days.”

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A decked jetty provides easy access between the hut and the lake. Courtesy Alex Filz

The second, more modest, volume crosses the first, and contains sanitary facilities that now meet accessibility requirements. At its center, a small atrium contains changing rooms and lockers crafted by local artisans. In warmer months, its open wooden frame serves as a trellis for climbing plants like fast-growing jasmine, cloaking the changing rooms in thick foliage that blends into the forest behind it.

Furthering blending in with the natural environment, the exterior is clad with untreated larch wood, harvested from the surrounding wooded area’s pine and larch, which weather naturally over time. 

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The interior design also emphasizes the architecture’s affinity with the natural world, bringing a strong visual sense of the outdoors, inside. Two tones of green were used as the base color for floors, walls, and ceiling: a soft green at the entrance and a brighter green inside. Courtesy Alex Filz

The bathing jetties—also new amenities in the new complex—use the same wood for decking, which fans outward like fingers to guide guests from the facility to the water and seems to dissolve into the water’s edge. The wooden facades allow the architecture to recuse itself in favor of the landscape around it; in winter, the lake house disappears under the snow.

“This type of wood was selected because of its resistance and durability, but also for its characteristic aspect,” explains Rier, who also used it to great graphical effect inside: “In the interiors,” he adds, “the knots create a decorative pattern that was intended to be as natural and random as possible.”

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Categories: Architecture, Hospitality Interiors