When Swiss Landscape Meets Italian Culture
A retreat—comprising 108 private residences, a 61-key boutique hotel, and spa and wellness environments—that spans three sites along a hillside in Southern Switzerland designed by Oppenheim Architecture embraces the unique landscapes and ecologies of each site to ground the retreat in the spirit of its place.
As countries emerge from isolation and airports ponder opening of flights to Covid-safe countries, lets start setting eyes on resorts and properties in concept stages. One that needs to be on the list is this resort embedded into the hills overlooking Lago Maggiore. The design of this resort arises from the uniquely varied landscape of Ticino—a region in southern Switzerland where Alpine peaks and dense forests meet a Mediterranean climate, palm-lined lakes, and Italian-influenced cultural and architectural traditions.
The first site augments an existing urban context. Working in collaboration with the local community, the project brings a new heart to the existing village, framed by revitalized local artisan shops offering fresh bread, salami, and local delicacies. Residents and visitors explore and inhabit the terraced landscape of gardens, squares, and piazzetta’s of the town, replenished with fountains, and mature trees.
The second site is a re-imagined botanical garden site that provides a lush, edible landscape as a backdrop to an exclusive boutique hotel and spa composed of individual ‘rustico’ villas and hillside spa. Pergolas, orchards, and cascading pools embrace the Mediterranean micro-climate, providing season-long comfort under the summer sun.
Finally, at 1,200 metres above the lake, a hamlet of secluded ‘rustico’ buildings are tucked into a chestnut forest. A sensitive reinterpretation of a Ticinese hill town, this artful choreography of tightly clustered buildings and forest clearings is braced to bear the snows of winter and the days of summer.
“Local craft will be combined with state-of-the-art techniques in the realization of the project. Locally quarried granite, reclaimed chestnut from retired barns and fallen trees, and stucco made with regional aggregates form the basis of the project’s material palette.
The selection of materials is tailored to the specifics of each site. The unique climatic requirements that inform material choices create distinct visual identities that respond to the characteristics of each place,” says Chad Oppenheim, the Principal architect of Oppenheim Architecture.
The primary material in the hill town is stucco. The botanical garden site uses granite, while the forest site uses reclaimed chestnut. Unique to their settings but unified by their simple geometries and restrained palettes, the architecture of three sites form a harmonious composition across the landscape, explains the architects.
Each of the structures is designed with a sensitivity to the exposure to sunlight while framing picturesque views over the valley, lake, and mountains. Taken together, the project establishes a varied experience that takes residents and guests through streets and piazzas to orchards, forests, vineyards, and waterfront terraces—revealing the richly layered Ticino landscape and fostering deep connections between people and the extraordinary natural ecosystem.
LAGO MAGGIORE RETREAT
Location: Ascona, Switzerland
Scope: Concept Design
Land Area: 42 sq.km
Total Built-up Area: 12,154 sq.m
Project Year: 2019CONSULTANTS:
Architect: Oppenheim Architecture
Local Architect: Aldo Cacchioli ArchitettoTEAM:
Principals in charge: Chad Oppenheim, Beat Huesler
Project Contributors: Tom McKeogh, Rasem Kamal, Esther Alcalde Giulliana Giorgi, Jourdan McKeeIMAGE CREDITS:
Visuals: Oppenheim Architecture, Mir.