Tirol’s Ötztal Valley is home to a ski resort innovation that is future-proofing the snow-sports industry: The new state-of-the-art Giggijochbahn Gondola in Sölden. Architect Johann Obermoser regards the building of gondolas as a link between the built and natural environment. Making the Alpine setting, with its beauty and built-in drama, accessible for people. Mission accomplished.
Sölden was a star on the big screen in 2015 as a filming location for the latest James Bond film “Spectre” starring Daniel Craig and the resort’s popularity has since continued to grow. This winter, Sölden embraces its influx of visitors with the introduction of the new mono-rope Giggijoch Gondola. This powerful and sophisticated new gondola transports up to 4,500 people per hour; the highest capacity of any lift in the world. Moreover, it is the fastest single-cable, 10-passenger gondola in the world. An impressive—and record-breaking—system by any measure, the € 30 million infrastructure investment was completed after seven months’ work only. Keen to make a modern statement, the two new stations have been designed by Johann Obermoser, the architect behind the resort’s Ice Q mountain restaurant and the Gaislachkogel Gondola Top Station, which rose to global fame as key filming locations for recent James Bond outing “Spectre”.
Mountains, Seas and Deserts: Architects, designers and artists have always been looking towards nature for inspiration and shape. It is known that architecture and nature are strongly related. The act of building, a man-made transformation of the natural environment is an imposition on nature, necessary for human habitation. The other way round, the use of nature as source of inspiration as well as implementation of natural elements in a design is a meritorious method that gives resonance, robustness and harmony. The two new stations of Giggijoch Gondola were inspired by the mountainous surroundings and the buildings mimic the shapes and patterns found in the area’s lofty summits and hollows. Architect Johann Obermoser regards the building of gondolas as a “link between the built and natural environment; between settlement structures that have grown and evolved over the centuries and pristine, undisturbed wild natural areas that have not been significantly modified by civilized human activity.” Like breaching the gap between Modernism and nature. Just as Johann Obermoser’s Gaislachkogel Gondola Top Station and Ice Q mountaintop restaurant, the Giggijoch Gondola Station stands in stark, modern and avant-garde contrast to the organic beauty all around. The eye-catching base station is a mixture of steel and concrete, while the terminal itself sits upon a slim tower that rises high above the ground. Doing so, it reduces the footprint of the building on the ground and creates an iconic and sustainable structure in the heart of Sölden. Holes drilled in the foil-coated steel wrapping around the station project the mountain landscape of the Ötztal Alps.
Jutting out from the building, the entry area is advertised with posters of Ötztal Valley’s mountain scenery. Gone are the days of having to walk up flights of stairs to access the cabins. The new base station has a level walk-in entrance for skiers and snowboarders approaching from the slopes, escalators and two elevators. This might be one of the most important feats of the 21st century: overcoming barriers, conquering mountains – easy and simple, kind of like dining at McDonalds. Without giving up on the quality of architecture, though. Obviously, the design of the base station is based on the principle of a shell—and it’s created as a function of the use of that shell, which marks the gateway to the mountain by defining the entrance to the cabin. Skiers are whisked from Sölden up the mountain in a record time of less than nine minutes, gaining 920 vertical meters.
The terminal atop Giggijoch Peak is an architectural marvel, the perfect complement to the spectacular natural beauty at an elevation of 2,200 meters above sea level. After all, given the challenges presented by the terrain, Alpine architecture is a science of its own kind. The top station makes a strong case that less-is-more design can make an enormous impact, especially in a dramatic natural setting like the one it is in. But beneath its effortlessly sleek exterior lies a wealth of architectural heft: Innsbruck–based architect Johann Obermoser met a range of structural and engineering challenges. The station is entirely built on permafrost, necessitating a stealth network of piles, posts, and plates beneath. The computer-controlled and operated hydraulic system can be moved up and down to allow for the varying levels of permafrost that cover the top of the mountain throughout the year. The cubelike box is covered by a transparent plastic foil-coated wrapping that seems to be one with the landscape. It’s a design that matches the Alpine environment of Giggijoch Peak, that gets the most out of the site, the place. The milky foil is a creative statement to compliment the system’s state-of-the-art technology. Jaw-dropping views of the glorious mountain scenery included.