Designing a modern mountaintop restaurant that avoids alpine clichés.

Credit: Herzog & de Meuron

The peak of Switzerland’s Chäserugg mountain has been accessible to skiers via cable car since 1972, but its lone dining option, in what was once provisional housing for construction workers, was an eyesore in an otherwise breathtaking landscape. A new mountaintop restaurant designed by Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron has remedied that problem quite nicely.

The Toggenburg Bergbahnen ski resort’s new restaurant encompasses the site’s existing cable car station within heavy sprucewood beams and a sloped, low-hanging roof, that channels the heritage of the region without descending into pastiche. Herzog & de Meuron senior partner attributes the success of that balancing act to the firm’s use of local wood, cut and installed by local craftspeople, “to develop a language and materiality that suits the Toggenburg region, but without resorting to the usual Alpine clichés.”

For Pierre de Meuron, the “somewhat forgotten” quality of the site, “in a place that has lain dormant for so many years,” made the restaurant memorable among his firm’s smaller projects. And what better way to take advantage of that remoteness than three sides of nearly full-height windows, looking out on the Churfirsten mountain range, Walensee lake below, and the backdrop of the Alps on the horizon.

Credit: Herzog & de Meuron