Sustainable building in Alps, made with large quantities of timber

Alpine Porsche Travel Experience: where sustainable building thrives

A land of cutting-edge architecture using traditional materials

Spectacular mountain roads, passes and panoramas: Porsche Travel Experience journeys in the Alps feature sharp bends, endorphin rushes and unconventional, sustainable Alpine architecture

Sustainable building: in dialogue with the landscape

Enthusiasts taking part in an Alpine Porsche Travel Experience frequently witness examples of unconventional architecture as they swoop through countless bends in this spectacular landscape. Over the past few years, the Alps has witnessed a rise in a style of construction that combines exceptional aesthetic design with the requirements for sustainable building. An unusual tradition of construction has found root in an environment that is characterised by the rare challenges of building in this often harsh, unpredictable climate with the type of rough terrain you expect in upland environments. One of the pioneers of modern sustainable Alpine architecture is Matteo Thun. A South Tyrolean, Thun initially made his mark in 2005 by reviving the once noble spa resort at Merano (known as Meran in German) with the design of a spectacular building housing thermal baths.

A thermal spa with large, glazed facades with mountain views
With its transparent design, the Therme Merano provides unforgettable views of the mountain scenery of the South TyrolMatteothun.com

Throughout the development of the Therme Merano project, the key inspiration for Thun was to capture the location’s soul. Direct light and large open spaces, all in harmony with nature, meant that this refined facility rapidly gained a reputation of being one of the most beautiful spa and wellness facilities in Europe. Take a dip in one of the pools and you soon begin to understand why the spa is more than just an example of architectural purity. Its large windows provide a holistic view of the landscape along with its magnificent panorama of the surrounding mountains. Nothing has been left to chance by star architect Thun. 

Timber: the concrete of the 21st century

Thun’s architectural designs can be found in locations worldwide, but he never loses sight of his mountain roots – and aims to ensure that it will be enjoyed for generations to come. He relentlessly focuses on how construction in alpine regions can be ecological and sustainable, frequently using indigenous timber, particularly larch. This wood is a simple, timeless and human – a sustainable building material that pays homage to the region’s heritage. To him, timber becomes more attractive with age compared to concrete or cement and says that the way it develops a patina is a sign of its particularly high quality. A weathered timber façade certainly looks impressive, developing a similar aura to an old barn made of larch. On the Alpine Porsche Travel Experience, such designs are within easy reach. 

Modern timber buildings with mountain view
Vigilius Mountain Resort, Lana: a beautiful homage to traditional architecture and constructionMatteothun.com

Another splendid example of Thun’s prowess with modern timber construction can be found in the unique Vigilius Mountain Resort near Lana, 10km (six miles) further south, en route to the Italian Lakes. The building here follows the contours of the mountains, providing an immersive scenic experience. Before starting a project, Thun acts just like the old mountain farmers once did. He spends a night at the proposed site in order to understand the microclimate, to find out where the sun rises and sets, the side which will be most affected by rain and how wind currents flow. When completed, the resort acquired the renowned ClimaHotel certification for exceptional energy efficiency, respect shown to the environment and for using local materials.

Sustainability is the new luxury
Matteo ThunSouth Tyrolean architect
Timber resort building with mountain view, in sunshine
Behind the natural, traditional materials used at the Vigilius Mountain Resort is a thoroughly modern experienceMatteothun.com

At one with nature on the Alpine Porsche Travel Experience

It’s not just in the eastern Alps where Thun’s architecture can be enjoyed on the Alpine Porsche Travel Experience. In Katschberg, in Austria’s Carinthia region, architecture fans can discover a splendid example of two sustainable buildings that are very much in harmony with their environment, taking a particularly refined approach to reflecting both nature and local culture. The formidable twin towers of the Residences edel:weiss complex, located between the Low Tauern and Nock Mountains, rise majestically into blue skies and provide a unique panoramic view of the peaks that surround it. These monoliths are shaped in the form of pine cones, with a spectacular facade made of vertical timber lattices, surrounded by larch, and connected to a biomass heating plant. It is the kind of construction that is completely in line with Thun’s blueprint for building in the Alps – a warm structure at one with nature, built with timber and sustainable materials. 

Timber-built high-rise towers soar into blue skies
Residences edel:weiss, Katschberg: striking towers, sustainable constructionMatteothun.com

Examples of this sustainable building philosophy can be found at regular intervals in the Alps. As you would expect, selected sustainably built hotels are also part of the Porsche Travel Experience programme, like the Chedi at Andermatt, in the Swiss Alps. Built with materials from the surrounding region, this wood-clad hotel is in complete harmony with its Alpine landscape. You will accumulate long-lasting memories on your drive along the varied Porsche Travel Experience routes in the Alps, but you will also likely return home with a new-found appreciation of modern Alpine sustainable architecture and construction too. 

This story is part of the 25 Years of Porsche Travel Experience anniversary series. We take you on a virtual world tour around the globe – with a new, fascinating episode each week. Click here to read all stories.

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