If you have ever driven the roads carving through the beautiful state of Vermont, you have a sense of the quintessential mountain scene complete with fall foliage, sprawling views, and of course, a scattering of barns, sheds, and maple syrup shacks in that rustic state vernacular. But I bet you never thought that one of those rickety shacks could ever be called home. Think again.
AFGH, an architecture firm based in Zurich came upon a small two-hundred-year old Alpine hut near Gstaad, Switzerland and decided they wanted to breath some life back into the old structure. And that they did, converting a shack that had not been in use for fifty years. With a thoughtful handling of the existing structure, the team converted the hut into an efficient, contemporary mountain getaway. In this case preservation not only saved time and money, but also provided a charming aesthetic. The architects made it a point to marry the aged qualities of the existing structure with modern, functional touches. The unassuming beauty of the original timber frame is celebrated through the architect’s deliberate preservation efforts. It is complemented by the installation of new doors and sliding windows to help regulate the airflow.
Driving by, the structure remains a small, subtle mountain hut, but the stream of smoke from the new chimney begs for the interior to be explored. The walls are layered with thick wooden planks, providing a rustic solidity and plenty of insulation. The kitchen and bathroom are built with massive stone blocks from a local quarry. This nod to local materials stays in tune with the sustainable approach to the project. The structure itself has been reused, instead of abandoned and left to decay, and this extension of the building’s life avoids demolition and saves on embodied energy.
The thoughtful renovation proves its success, and a hut that was once uninhabitable due to the raw cold air became a warm, inviting retreat set neatly into the mountainous landscape. The delicate renovation preserves the vernacular traditions of the Alps, and its charming subtleties ignite some inspiration to peel back the layers of dust disguising the many abandoned sheds dotting our own New England landscapes.