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A Restaurant Perched Atop A Mountain Peak

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Basel-based architects Herzog & de Meuron were enlisted by tourism company Toggenburg Bergbahnen to design a restaurant atop Chäserrugg, the easternmost peak of Switzerland’s Churfirsten Massif mountain range.

Reaching 7420 ft above sea level, Chäserrugg rises up from Toggenburg in the north before plunging 6250 ft down a sharp cliff to Lake Walensee.Reaching 7420 ft above sea level, Chäserrugg rises up from Toggenburg in the north before plunging 6250 ft down a sharp cliff to Lake Walensee. Located in a popular ski resort in the Toggenburg region, which is also home to hiking trails in the summer, the view it offers spans six countries.

Since 1972, the breathtaking region has been accessible by cable car, one hour away from Zurich. In the plateau where Chäserrugg meets Hinterrugg and Rosenboden sits a summit station, which used to house the construction workers who completed the cable car.

Built on a concrete and steel framework, the station was given a fresh facade and a new neighbor: the Gipfelrestaurant, built perpendicular to the original structure on the same concrete and steel framework. The two structures are linked via an open-air reception area, and are bordered by an outdoor terrace and panoramic viewing area.

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“We tried to develop a language that fits into Toggenburg, without falling into the trap of popular Alpine clichés”Completed in 2015, the building was largely constructed from solid wood on a concrete foundation created from excavated earth on the site. Reflecting the preferred regional material, local artisans prefabricated the station from timber in the valley below before it was assembled on the mountaintop during summer months.

“We tried to develop a language that fits into Toggenburg, without falling into the trap of popular Alpine clichés”, says Christine Binswanger, Senior Partner at Herzog & de Meuron. “The participation of local companies provoked a lot of passion…the construction could thus also be implemented in very resource-friendly way.”

With respect for the relatively untouched natural landscape, sustainability and cultural heritage at the forefront of their agenda, almost all resources used in the building process were transported up the mountain via cable car: a total of 3,600 tons across 1,200 trips.

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The restaurant interior is notable for the consistent use of spruce tree woodwork, creating a cosy atmosphere surrounding the long communal tables. A low roof sits atop columns, surrounded by windows on three sides, which offer an almost-360 degree view of the jaw-dropping surrounds.

“Each niche has its own window and thus its own framed view of the mountainscape”, adds Binswanger. “This project involved creating a place that has character in every season and in all weather, to create a mood for skiers who are in a hurry, for groups wishing to spend a day or two days here, but also for hikers and other people who seek peace.”

"This project involved creating [...] a mood for skiers who are in a hurry, for groups wishing to spend a day or two days here, but also for hikers and other people who seek peace."
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All images © Juergen Pollak