Superwood, Monte Rosa, 2008-2009
Digital Wood Carvings in the Restaurant of the Monte Rosa Alpine Hut

At 2883 m above sea level, a new mountain hut is being built by the ETH Zurich and the Swiss Alpine Club SAC. The timber construction is an applied research project of the ETH Zurich architecture department, and will use new building technologies in an exemplary way. In the restaurant area, the traditional decorative wood carvings will be interpreted in a novel way, using digital design and fabrication methods. Computer-controlled joinery machines have long been standard in the timber industry. These machines crosscut individual planks and beams at the correct angle, and cut slits and bore the necessary holes for assembly. Via “digital wood-carvings”, which are transmitted to the machine as additional fabrication data, we extend this work step and exploit the full potential of digital fabrication with timber. The ornamentation covers the complete wooden structure and ceiling. Its continuous line pattern interprets the restaurant’s spatial features as well as the material wood, into which the ornamentation is carved. Force fields that are defined in virtual space are mapped as lines on the physical surfaces that delimit the interior space. In this way the carvings combine innovation and tradition into a sensual spatial experience.

Gramazio Kohler Architects, Zurich

In cooperation with: Studio Monte Rosa, ETH Zurich
Client: ETH Zürich and the Swiss Alpine Club
Collaborators: Tobias Bonwetsch (project lead), Ralph Baertschi