Comparing the design of mountain huts and bivouacs

“The way in which we design or add on to a mountain hut shows where we want to go and what kind of future we envisage for mountain tourism and high-altitude visitors, especially if the areas concerned have been recognised as World Heritage Sites.” This is how Mario Tonina, president of the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation, commented on the course “Designing for high altitude – The architecture of mountain huts and bivouacs”, organised by the Order of Architects of the Autonomous Province of Trento, in cooperation with the Trentino Circle for Contemporary Architecture and made possible through the collaboration of the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation, Trentino Marketing and the Trentino Mountain Huts Association. The programme takes place on 29 April, 13 May and 20 May at the SAT (Tridentine Mountaineering Society) headquarters in Trento, with the addition of a high-altitude workshop on 4 and 5 June in Gardeccia (Val di Fassa).

A debate that involves public opinion

How are mountain huts or bivouacs designed? How are they integrated with their fragile surroundings? How can functional requirements be synthesised with a focus on sustainability? These are just a few of the questions that have emerged from the debate between specialists into the broader debate of public opinion in recent years. The many aspects at stake range from mountain culture to land use models and the need for active conservation of the high-altitude landscape. “Mountain huts provide something of great value to our mountains,” says Trento Order of Architects president, Marco Giovanazzi, “Designing them means merging symbolic value with day-to-day management and environmental issues, which are now imperative.”

The need for comparison

“The managers themselves, with whom we have been collaborating for years, never cease to question how functional needs can be reconciled with a sense of limitation”, adds UNESCO Dolomites Foundation president Mario Tonina. “For us as managers, this is an extraordinary opportunity”, confirms Roberta Silva, president of the Trentino Mountain Huts Association. “More synergy is needed between planners, builders, owners, managers and institutions.” This idea is also shared by Anna Facchini, president of SAT, who cites two concrete examples: “In 2021, with this awareness that the time had come for a new mode of interaction, we resolved to use design competitions for specific cases of mountain hut renovation or refurbishment. The first two calls for design competitions are currently being prepared for the Pedrotti-Tosa mountain hut in Brenta and the Ciampedié mountain hut in Catinaccio.”

Ph. Rifugio e bivacco Pradidali – Riccardo Masut