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New Zealand-based practice Harris Butt Architecture has designed the Knoll Ridge Café at Whakapapa Ski Field on Mt. Ruapehu, Tongariro National Park. The new café, built for skiers and visitors to Mt. Ruapehu which is New Zealand’s largest active volcano replaces the original Knoll Ridge Chalet which was destroyed by a fire in February 2009.
The remote location and rapidly changing weather conditions provided their own set of challenges for the architects. The lack of proper roads to the location posed logistics problem. It was solved by breaking the entire building, from foundation beams/floor panels to roof sections and windows into a modular panelised system, which allowed for delivery, placement and erection by helicopter on site. The large part of roof and walls are bulit from insulated sandwich panels constructed of plywood and LVL.
Following is a description from the architects, “The form of the building reflects the strong geological features of the mountain. The “gull wing” roof was to appear to “cradle” the mountains peak. On a practical level is used to manage the snow. The building is designed to cover with up 3.0m of snow.
Timber has been used extensively inside and out to create the warm “feeling” of the “traditional” mountain chalet without adopting the traditional form. The glass exterior (particularly to the east wall) is the other feature of the building – allowing full exposure to the magnificence view to the Pinnacle Ridge.
The new café is located approximately 50m down the mountain from the original chalet site, with the main café floor at approximately 2010m ASL. The new building accommodates café seating for approx 400 people with servery, kitchen and support facilities all on one level. At this same level, a deck area for approximately 200 people is provided. The main public toilet area, staff facilities and storage are on the level below with separate access from the outside as well connection to the café via an internal stair.”