The Carlo Mollino refuge: beauty is more than folklore

The Carlo Mollino Alpine Refuge in Gressoney Saint Jean, part of the Weissmatten ski resort at over 2,000 meters of altitude, was built in 2014 according to designs by the great Turin-born architect and designer Carlo Mollino (1905-1973), who had presented similar projects in 1951 for the Vetroflex Domus competition, and again in 1954 at the 10th Milan Triennial.

Mollino’s “Casa Capriata” was an innovative architectural concept, stemming from his philosophy that “new materials, new techniques can and should – as in the past – allow for mountain architecture to expresses an ideally coherent current world: where architects, more than ever, create (when possible) despite the majority’s requests.”

In his notes from the 1950s, Mollino explained, “to this day, people seem more or less openly willing and keen to build structures in the mountains inspired by folklore and by the surrounding landscape. I am strongly against this stance, born with romantic taste when eclecticism is always alive. Wanting folk architecture means repeating the choices that people who actually built mountain huts, the craftsmen who built original architectures with wood and stone, would not accept anymore.”

“Today,” Mollino went on, “imitating shapes and overshadowing the structures of old buildings – which were born out of material possibilities and particular destinations, now gone or changed – is like building the set of a nonexistent reality, leaving tradition instead of adding to it.”

Thus, “the ‘style’ of mountain architecture cannot be predetermined with an arbitrary imposition, dictated by a literary and yet abstract mental habit. To each construction problem, depending on location and destination, there is a solution that must lead to authentic architecture and which, as such, automatically fits in with the beauty of the landscape” (translated from C. Mollino, “Tabù e tradizione nella costruzione montana”, in “Atti e rassegna tecnica della Società degli Ingegneri e degli Architetti in Torino”, 1954).

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The Carlo Mollino refuge: beauty is more than folklore

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