5 April 2016
Designing with respect for the location and without producing a parody of its traditional elements is not easy, especially in the high mountains. But it is also an exercise that can yield excellent results, as is evident from the Gipfel Restaurant, constructed by Herzog & de Meuron in the Churfirsten range of the Swiss Alps (less than an hour’s drive from Zurich). The restaurant stands on the site of a structure built in 1972 for the workers who constructed the cableway linking Unterwasser (910 m) to Iltios (1,350 m) and extending as far as the station on top of Chäserrugg (2,262 m), later utilized partially, just as it was, as a place of refreshment. Then, in 2011, its owner Mélanie Eppenberger (president of Toggenburg Bergbahnen TBB) turned to the Swiss firm to make a radical change. The process was completed in 2015: a new restaurant has been built, located at right angles to the station so that it offers a view, looking south, of Lake Walensee and the Alps. The two structures are connected by a large roof that defines the space in the open in which visitors wait for the cable cars. The only concession to the spectacular in the architecture is the extension of the great roof at the front that gives onto the valley and provides shelter from the sun or from rain and snow. Glass walls through which to enjoy the landscape and fir wood of local origin, used inside and outside the building, complete the picture of a design in harmony with its context.