Miller & Maranta
Altes Hospiz St. Gotthard
One of the most symbolic alpine passes of Europe is the pass “St. Gotthard”. Since centuries, it is the most important road connection between the Italian and the German-speaking part of Switzerland and at the same time it’s also a significant inter-European road connection. The assembly of buildings on the top of the pass is evidence of this rich and diverse history.
Nowadays the top of the pass is marked by the buildings of the “Alte Sust” and the hotel “St. Gotthard”. The old hospice, which is the founding building, is slightly set back, but still it has a significant effect from afar, hence its distinctive gabled facade. After the fire of 1905, the building was added to the southern side of the small chapel from the 16th century.
Today, the architectural potential lies within the volume: its firm and proud expression, situated on the top of the pass, exposed to the hard mountain climate, and carrying an upright south facing the main facade. As a visitor, these elements have a strong visual effect.
The project enforces this impressive character and adds a new contemporary layer. This is done with the necessary respect for the cultural monument and by applying accurate measures. On one hand, these measures are to eliminate the parts of the building, which are misleading and, on the other hand, they are to enforce the existing architectural effect and the historical significance.
The buildings, which previously had been perceived as separate buildings, are now joined under a huge roof, which is covered with lines of lead. The main façade is now extended by one storey and different types of windows show their respective history of the last centuries.
Beneath this powerful main facade, the visitor can access the building via an old wooden door and can then approach the upper floor via the historical staircase. Here the big living-room with its old soapstone oven is located. The guest rooms are in the floors above aligned along the hallway, which is dressed in natural plaster. Just as in a residential house, the visitor can enter his room, which is lit by a little window. In extension to the room, a simple bed is tucked inside an alcove. The comfortable guest room is framed by a massive wooden construction, which gives it a pristine character. The rooms are equipped with little furniture and, therefore, are reminders of the time when the house was a simple guesthouse.
To enable a contemporary hotel business, the gabled south end façade made out of broken stone brickwork is extended by one storey. The copying is secured by a concrete band, which is put on top of the brickwork. This band also absorbs the thrust of the new roof structure. The new parts of the façade are covered with the same rough plaster, which was discovered on the existing building.
Above the second floor, the interior room structure is completely dismantled. Within the existing façade, a wooden frame construction is introduced which has its origin from historical examples of the region. Thanks to this dry construction and the setting of the wooden construction in the workshops, the short summer season without snow can be used efficiently for the building. At the same time, the insulated wooden construction is an improvement to the energy efficiency of the building, which can now be heated by geothermal energy.
Location: Airolo, Switzerland
Type: Renovation, Extension, Hotel
Client: Fondazione Pro San Gottardo, Airolo
Collaborator: J.-L. von Aarburg
Structural Engineer: Conzett Bronzini Gartmann, Chur
Construction Management: CAS Architekten, Altdorf
Building Contractor: Robert Gamma, Schattdorf
Drawings (Elevations): Adam Caruso Chair ETH Zürich
Photography: Ruedi Walti