A new suspended platform that defies gravity, turning the concept of wellness upside down: Hub of Huts is the latest Alto Adige realization by the architectural studio noa*, which returns to Valdaora, at Hotel Hubertus, one of the first places to have revealed the designers’ strong expressive power, just as with their creation of the iconic cantilevered swimming pool.
Floating – perched between heaven and earth – Hubertus lies in the picturesque mountains of the majestic Dolomites. Here, guests are treated to impressive feats of man and nature, where architecture meets landscapes, where confines disappear, and where true wellness becomes takes center stage. The gravity-defying Hub of Huts wellness center evokes a sense of remarkable peace and features inverted structures, a suspended walkway, three pools, two saunas and showers with breathtaking views.
Hotel Hubertus & NOA*
The story between the Network of Architecture and Hotel Hubertus began several years ago when noa* designed the cantilever pool for location in 2016, in fact, it had envisioned it as an erratic boulder stranded between earth and sky. In 2019 the firm was given a new assignment, the design of an extension dedicated to wellness. Not an easy task, relating to a building that had already found its symbol in the swimming pool, yet it was the latter that provided the inspiration for the new project.
The essence of Hub of Huts
From the observation of the surrounding landscape reflected in the waters of the pool, the compositional idea came to life: materializing what is seen reflected on the surface of the water, as if the image were a fleeting representation ready to be converted into reality. It is a concept that plays with the horizon line, the notion of straight and inverted, and perspectives.
“The essence of this project is the reversal of horizons, resulting in an effect of amazement for the observer. – explains Lukas Rungger, lead architect of the project and noa* founder – If you think about it, however, changing perspectives is a very common exercise in wellness areas, where, depending on whether you are lying in the sauna, sitting in the relaxation area, or immersed upside down in the pool, the views are constantly changing.”
The new building is located on the southeast side of the facade, in a mirror-image position to the pool. Like the latter, it is also detached from the main body of the structure, designed as a cantilevered platform, suspended 15 meters above ground level and supported by two pillars clad in larch logs, similar to those that punctuate the rear elevation. It is reached via a suspended walkway, which also serves as a link to the newly constructed relaxation area behind, a glassed-in parallelepiped that seats up to 27 people.
Floating in the Dolomites
On the platform, individual microstructures with gabled roofs house the functional program on two levels. A surprise element is the lower level of the platform, where the horizon undergoes a 180° rotation and the huts appear to be anchored upside down.
The two levels are characterized by a different treatment of screening, with exposed spaces above and protected spaces below. On the upper level are two hot tubs, two panoramic showers, and a locker room. The lower level is a textile free area: the central, indoor section houses the foyer. From here there is access to the soft sauna, Finnish sauna, a walk-in shower, frozen mist shower, and a third outdoor pool, from where the gaze can sweep over the entire surrounding landscape.
“The lower level of the platform provokes a feeling of estrangement in the observer. As you descend, the temperature rises and the environment becomes more protected. It feels like a descent into the center of the earth, resulting in a reversal of the poles,” summarizes architect Gottfried Gruber, who supervised the project.
The decision to work with inverted pitched roofs is a choice motivated by formal and functional reasons: on the one hand, the desire to recreate the architecture of a mountain village, and on the other, the practical need to allocate inside the inverted roof the water purification system for the swimming pool, and the steps where one can sit in the sauna. In addition, the staggered arrangement of the huts and the alternating orientation of the ridges allow for a 360° view of the landscape, the true protagonist of the project.
The choice of colors and materials is in concordance with the mountain landscape: aluminum panels in natural brown tones cover the individual cabins as well as the thickness of the attic, which is formed by a structure of steel support beams. The louvers that screen the windows are also of the same material and hue. The floors are light beige ceramic tile, while in the relaxation room the floor is white oiled oak.
With this latest project, noa* has been able to revive the imaginative momentum from which the concept for Hotel Hubertus was born, designing a platform that with its 20-meter overhang marks a new floating outpost suspended between heaven and earth. A project where the force of gravity seems to vanish and unexpected scenarios come to life.