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The Schwarzenstein Hut: Copper exterior, wooden interior

09.12.2020 | SWISS KRONO Group

December 2020 – At over 3,000 meters above sea level, the climate is harsh, the sky is close, and the summit panorama is breathtaking. In the middle of this wild terrain in the South Tyrolean Alps, very close to the Austrian border on the Italian side, a building forms a place of refuge that hikers and mountaineers visit to rest and enjoy the view. This irregular hexagonal object is as fascinating as it is contradictory. At first glance, with its initially shiny copper façade, it looks foreign to its surroundings. Yet it also fits harmoniously into the landscape. The architects Bachmann + Stifter have created a very special masterpiece with the Schwarzenstein Hut.

Design of a High Alpine Hut

The province of Bolzano-Alto Adige decided to renew the refuge in the Zillertal Alps in 2011. The previous property was no longer structurally safe due to thawing permafrost soil. A new building was desired about 100 meters further up with a classic partitioning of an entrance area with a porch, a lounge and kitchen, washrooms, and bedrooms for 50 guests. Shelter and functionality come before comfort. The architects Helmut Stifter and Angelika Bachmann stacked these different functional areas on top of each other: The first floor offers space for a kitchen and a living room with a long row of windows that offer a fantastic view into the Dolomites. On the first and second floor are the bunks. The lessee lives on the third floor. The first basement floor houses drying rooms, showers, toilets, and storage rooms. The technical room is located on the second basement floor. 

The irregular, almost arbitrary silhouette, tapering both upwards and downwards from the first floor, is inspired by the surrounding rock formations formed by the forces of nature. When viewed from all directions, the building has a different shape and thus always remains in motion. The façade made of copper sheet metal, which shines and reflects differently depending on the incidence of light, also contributes to this. In the meantime, the façade has already darkened and the patina has set in. A shimmering sculpture thus transforms into a dark-matte tower about 18 meters high. The copper is reminiscent of earlier times when the metal was mined in the nearby Ahrntal. 

Building to the Extreme

One of the main challenges in building this hut at an altitude of over 3,000 meters was not only the weather, but above all the logistics. Both were decisive factors in the choice of material. The areas in contact with the rock are made of concrete. Everything else is made of wood, because a wooden construction was erected within a few days and the slim wall and ceiling elements – planked with SWISS KRONO OSB – were easier to transport. A temporary cable car for the construction material was built for more flexible transport that is independent of weather conditions. This was the cheaper alternative to the helicopter, which was only used for workers and craftsmen. Throughout all of this, care had to be taken to ensure that the material could be processed and installed even in wet and sub-zero temperatures.
The concrete work began in August 2016 and the first wooden construction elements for walls, ceilings, and the roof were installed in October. At the end of October, the construction site was made winterproof, i.e. the shell was encased with SWISS KRONO OSB. The entire building envelope was clad with OSB to protect it from the harsh effects of winter. Only in July of the next year was the work continued and it was completed in October 2017. “This property is a prime example of the advantages of timber construction,” says Uwe Jöst, Head of Sales OSB SWISS KRONO Group. “The element construction method is extremely fast and can be realized even under extreme weather conditions.”

Self-Sufficient in Terms of Energy and Water

The building generates electricity from a photo-voltaic system. A combined heat and power unit can be put into operation as required. Electrical energy is stored in a battery bank. A large part of the hut is unheated, but so well insulated that it is sufficient. In 2018 the hut was awarded the special prize of the Climate House Award from the Autonomous Province of Bolzano. Drinking water is collected and treated 450 meters away as glacier or melt water. 

Reduction to the Essentials

No motion detectors, no individual room controllers, no technical refinements, but only functions that the lodge host can take care of himself. Elementary, pure, minimalist. And this applies not only to the technical equipment, but also to the design as a whole. The bunks are lined in natural spruce and kept very simple. There is only one light in the middle of the room, as well as a single socket in the room, but plenty of view. The luxury is being in this place.

The Facts at a Glance

Building Type Highest mountain hut in the Zillertal Alps, at 3,026 meters above sea level, 6 floors, 510 m2 net floor space
Owner     Autonomous Province of Bolzano – South Tyrol,
Year of Construction August 2016-October 2017 (opened in July 2018)
Construction Management Stifter + Bachmann, Bachla 5, I - 39030 Pfalzen (BZ),
General Contractor Burgerbau KG & Co., Mühlweg 1a, I-39030 Gsies (BZ),
Wood Construction HOKU Zimmerei und Holzbau, Gewerbegebiet Öden 4
I-39034 Toblach (BZ), 
Architects Stifter + Bachmann, Bachla 5, I - 39030 Pfalzen (BZ), 
Structural Analysis Planungsbüro Dr. Ing. Stefano Brunetti, Stegenerstraße 10, I - 39031 Bruneck (BZ),
Processed Wood 1.850 m2 SWISS KRONO OSB/4 
(formerly OSB/F****, 18 und 22 mm):
  • 1.050 m2 for exterior walls planked on both sides
  • 650 m2 for winter housing
  • 150 m2 for roof upstands and interior
21 m3 solid structural wooden exterior wall (wood frame construction)
311 m2 cross-laminated timber interior walls (100-140 mm)
473 m2 cross-laminated timber solid-wood ceilings (140-180 mm)
CO2 Binding through wood and wood-based materials Altogether approximately 182 tons of CO2 are durably bound in the processed wood.



The SWISS KRONO Group is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of wood-based materials and stands for sustainable and innovative solutions in the business segments Interiors, Flooring, and Building Materials. Founded in 1966 as a family business, it is headquartered in Lucerne, Switzerland and produces at ten locations in eight countries. The group currently employs about 5,000 people. The SWISS KRONO Group has always been uncompromisingly committed to quality and sustainability. This is how top-form wood is created. Further information is available at