420 meters above sea level, an infinite-looking space, with snowy peaks and ridges extending out. A thrilling and almost moving sight, especially from within the eerie silence of our own walls, where we almost have the sensation of breathing in that limpid and pungent air. Trusting that we will get there soon, let’s go visit it anyways in its, in this case, splendid isolation.
It’s called La Marmotta (The Marmot) – in these parts during the summer marmots really do frolic—and it is located in the upper Val di Susa in one of the most famous ski areas in Piedmont: the Via Lattea—a stretch of slopes and paths that connects Sauze d’Oulx to Monginevro in France, passing through San Sicario, Sestriere, Cesana and Claviere. People come here in summer and winter with skis, on mountain bikes or on foot, but also on snowmobiles and ATVs—essential means of transport for the complicated management of one of the rare places to eat at high-altitude.
The refuge—a stone plinth with two glass and wood volumes that follow one another slightly off kilter and roof pitches that descend following the slope of the mountain—stands out over the valley like a watchful sentinel. An easily recognizable marker that reinterprets the traditional wood and stone mountain refuge in a contemporary key by replacing the typical small openings of yesteryear with large windows. The design philosophy follows that of Passivhaus (literally passive house), a concept of the home that includes minimal energetic consumption thanks to optimal thermal insulation (triple glazed windows included), the utilization of solar heating and ventilation-controlled heat recovery.
Opened in 2018, the reconstruction was overseen by Alessandro and Alvaro Baccon and Elena Rava’s AB2ER architecture, a studio specialized in high-altitude architecture. It has been engaged for a quarter century in projects marked by the complex dialogue between modernity and alpine environments.
A challenge no less important for the team of architects were the interiors. If during the day the large, spectacular glass windows allow one to fully enjoy the magic of the mountains, in the dark of the evening (while perhaps a blizzard rages outside) an intimate and welcoming space is needed—a burrow with a fireplace, a true refuge. To respond to two such diverse situations, La Marmotta’s restaurant, bistro and café places its faith in the warmth of wood: floors, ceilings, walls, the bar and table tops. The natural wood, also partly recovered with its various shades and grains, creates the entire enclosure and gives off a sense of wellness.
To finish off the comfortable atmosphere, there is a mix of some anticonventional pieces decorated by Maurizio Cattelan with surrealist images by Toiletpaper for Seletti, a series of lounge chairs and poufs from the Feel Good collection, earth-toned Guscioalto Soft velvet armchairs, and Happy sofas and chaise longues by Flexform.
We can’t wait to spend a whole day there, because the kitchen also promises a more than appropriate menu. Plus, social distancing will surely not be an issue.
WHERE: La Marmotta, Via Case Sparse 15, Sauze d’Oulx (TO), Italy
PHOTO: Courtesy La Marmotta
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