NOVELTY ARCHITECTURE BUILT INTO THE LANDSCAPE
“The landscape belongs to the architecture and the architecture belongs to, and relates with, the landscape.”
- – Jacques Labro –
THE BIRTH OF A WHOLE NEW CONCEPT
In 1961 Jacques Labro was awarded the Prix de Rome. He was 26 years old at the time, and met Gérard Brémond. Quickly joined by Jean-Jacques Orzoni and Jean-Marc Roques – with whom he created the Atelier d’Architecture d’Avoriaz (Architectural Workshop of Avoriaz) – he designed a whole new perfect andfun resort, from the ground up. Jean Vuarnet began the process of building a 209,000 metres squared, car-free resort.
The team of architects, forgetting all the regular shapes they are used to working with, laid out ski tracks, buildings, chalets and facilities, using only the topography as their guide. In fact their work was guided by a single idea: designing a whole new concept of architecture adapted to the feel of the mountains, that would not be influenced by the Savoyard chalet nor any existing urban structure.
They worked hard to combine shapes, volumes and materials with the landscape and the environment. The Sosna, Thuya and Araucarya residences, as well as the chalets opposite them, are the best examples of architecture that is in perfect harmony with its natural surroundings, abandoning traditional methods and taking risks with vertical structures and no right angles in sight.
Each building has its own unique silhouette and proportions, and fits perfectly into the contours and structures of the natural mountainous area. This expressionist approach really highlights the surrounding landscape. The Blueprints for the resort were drawn up in 1964, and are still used today as the main reference, which allows Avoriaz to consistently reinvent itself, in keeping with the original design which influences each new construction.
This living architecture, that Jacques Labro brought into the “organic” architecture movement, in keeping with the work of Franck Lloyd Wright or Aval Aalto, went against existing models or those built in the same period, such as the strict urban style or neo-rustic style.
The buildings were built to fit in with the surrounding mountainous area, to be able to take full advantage of the view and the sun whilst revealing the mountains between buildings: backed onto the wall at the bottom of the slopes, integrated into the hilltops orstanding on the plateau, this alternation serves to avoid repetition, for harmony between the natural environment and the architecture. The roof has in fact become the fifth façade which means the building can imitate the shapes of the landscape.
At Avoriaz, wood is everywhere. The façades are covered with wood shingles (red, cedar-wood tiles that made up the majority of Savoyard roofs). This imitation of the architecture and colours goes as far as the choice of shades, the shingles are left natural with shades that vary between black and silver, with hints of reddish-orange just like tree bark.
The roof sections slope all the way down to the ground, making it easier for the snow to settle upon the buildings all winter long. The snow clings to these sloping roof sections and helps to integrate each building into the surrounding environment, so the smooth snow-covered landscape is reflected in the building.
“What strikes me most about the mountains in winter is the sheer power of the snow to transform the landscape. It holds the same power over the architecture… As long as it plays the game.”
- – Jacques Labro –
Jacques Labro designed the interior with the same approach of discontinuity – this unique Baroque style is all about the happiness and needs of holiday-makers.
The accommodation was built with living spaces in mind, perfectly adapted to the pace of a typical day skiing in the mountains. The windows act as frames which showcase the natural décor, what Jacques Labro called “an initiatory movement, a pathway towards the light and the view.”
Mezzanines, openings created in the concrete walls to give the feeling of more space and a wider perspective.The staircases and passageways offer the same feeling of freedom as the exterior architecture. As times passes and our lifestyle evolves towards the desire for larger living spaces, the apartments have been redesigned and modified to fit in with the current way of living.
HOTEL DES DROMONTS
This was the first building in the resort and the grand opening for Christmas 1966 marked the birth of Avoriaz. The handles on the front door bear witness to this important date, forming a 6 and 7.
This door is purposefully unvarnished in order to allow the weather and the elements to naturally alter it. The south-facing façade is mink grey in colour, the north one is ash grey and those facing east and west are chestnut brown. Dromonts Square is the historic heart of the resort, the place where the ‘influence’ of the mountains is most evident in the architecture.
The pine cone shape is emblematic of Avoriaz, and it seems to extend upwards out of the ground and towards the sky. The fan-shaped design opens out onto a panoramic view. The façades and roofs merge together into elegant broken lines that fit closely around the hilltop they are built up against. The interior is characterised by uneven sections, round windows, views and passageways. The lobby of Hotel des Dromonts is a creation in its own right, with a bold layout and an atmosphere which then was used as a guide for the first stage of the constructions: nooks, crannies, split levels, flights of stairs, interlacing passageways, oven-shaped fireplaces etc.
The 4-star hotel, managed by the family-owned group Sibuet, continues this blend of tradition and modernity. Creating their own version of a sixties style, the hotel is furnished with Eerio Aarnio capsule-style mandarin orange egg chairs, Charles and Ray Eames chairs and Charlotte Perriand tables and chairs.
All the bathrooms contain slate quarried from Morzine. The fabrics used for the curtains, armchairs and sofas were made-to-measure in mandarin orange and purple, turquoise and violet and camel and mandarin orange shades.