Minimal Design, Maximum Protection
Icy, pelting rain, blinding snowstorms, radically shifting temperatures—Ljubljana-based OFIS Architects and structural engineers from London-based AKT II, in collaboration with students from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and Rieder, designed Bivak Pod Skuto to withstand extreme weather conditions on Slovenia's Skuta Mountain.
The remote bivouac's three modules allowed for helicopter transport up the mountain and functionally divide the space into entrance and storage, eating and socializing, and sleeping. The interior design bows to the function of sheltering up to eight mountaineers. With a nod to traditional alpine architecture and input from mountaineers, form and materials were chosen to respectfully respond to the extreme mountain conditions but also to provide panoramic views of the majestic wilderness.
Constructing the frames off-site and fastening the structure onto pin connections allowed for a less invasive foundation (only the pins penetrate the rock) and left the mountain site as undisturbed as possible. The installation was completed in a single day. Although small, more than sixty people were involved in the demanding project, most of them volunteers and sponsors.
Photographer Jaka Bulc (@jakabulc) scaled the tremendously rugged terrain to discover the hauntingly cool bivouac
The hike up
The unmarked trail that leads to this bivouac starts in the Kamniška Bistrica valley, just a short drive from the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana.
The gravel road to the trailhead is bumpy and the trailhead itself is somewhat hard to find. The actual hike is not difficult technically, but it is very steep and relatively strenuous. The first part of the hike leads through a deciduous forest that eventually gives way to a sea of mountain pine. Above the tree line, the terrain mostly consists of scree and steep, grassy slopes. The last part of the hike is the prettiest: it winds its way through the alpine karst, full of interesting surface features.
The bivouac was built in 2015 as a replacement for an older structure that occupied the same location in the previous decades. It is situated at 2045 meters (6709 feet) above sea level, underneath the southern walls of Skuta Mountain. The bivouac comprises three modules made out of glass, larch wood and various recycled materials that blend into its surroundings. It offers spectacular views of the Ljubljana Basin and the surrounding peaks, to which a couple of marked trails lead from the bivouac's vicinity.
We hiked to the bivouac on a perfect September weekday, met very few people on the trail and even had the summit of Skuta all to ourselves. △