Some appear boulder-like, others monolithic, dotting the slope of an otherwise indistinct hillside in northeastern France. Fourteen cabins, each drawing influences from Norwegian hyttes—small, traditional hillside houses in the country—have been nestled into the landscape to form a community of sorts for travelers. And they all form the basis of the environmentally friendly, landscape hotel 48° Nord.
“It is a fairytale composition in relation to nature,” says Reiulf Ramstad, partner at Norwegian firm Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter, which handled the architecture and design of the hotel and spa, transforming the formerly agricultural land.
Divided into four typologies, the cabins encompass a range of shapes that help them unite with the landscape. The single-level Grass hyttes, settle around the main building like stones. The Tree and Ivy offerings, meanwhile, tower above the landscape like their namesakes, delivering panoramic views of the Vosges Mountains nearby. At the top of the hill, meanwhile, rest the Fiell cabins with enclosed outdoor spaces meant for families.
“The cabins almost levitate, barely touching the ground for minimal impact on the terrain and topography,” says Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter graduate architect Quentin Desfarges.
Throughout all the accommodations, rustic interiors are brought to life by a pastel palette, light wood, and built-in furniture, all representing hygge, the Danish and Norwegian notion of coziness, comfort, and contentment.
Designing With a Deep Reverence for the Landscape
Using untreated wood sourced directly from an adjacent hill, Ramstad makes wooden architecture a through line of the entire property. Alsatian chestnut shingles adorn the exteriors while poplar lines inside, along with granite where needed. “The project is designed after the landscape,” Ramstad says. The residences, the reception, the spa, the restaurant: all pull from this natural influence.
Perched on a Natura 2000 site (a network of protected areas for rare and threatened species), sustainability had to be woven through every aspect of the project. “We used what was at our disposal (materials, people) to create a playful, attractive, and sensual architecture,” Ramstad explains. To that end, the main building conforms to Passivhaus standards—a set of voluntary criteria for ultra-low energy use—with the Alsatian cladding made in a reintegration workshop in nearby Saverne.
Each cabin is also built with bio-based materials sourced from Breitenbach’s forests, rain is collected and treated through a reed bed filtration system, and food is sourced from nearby organic producers and the hotel’s own vegetable garden.
“It is the natural environment that gives the project its identity,” Ramstad says. “We want to give visitors a [sense] of place—an environmentally friendly travel experience without big entertainment outside of nature itself.”
Another version of this article originally appeared on Hospitality Design.