Slideshow: Knoll Ridge Cafe - designed by Harris Butt Architecture

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Knoll Ridge Café
Whakapapa Ski Field, Mt Ruapehu

With the destruction of the original Knoll Ridge Chalet in February 2009, an ambitious design/construction programme was initiated to create temporary replacement facilities (café, toilets) for the 2009 winter season followed by the design and construction of a new café for the 2010 winter season. The simple lean-too structure of the temporary café building tested the construction process and the selection of materials facilitating the adoption of a similar methodology and material selection for the new café.

The new café is located approximately 50m down the mountain from the original café site, with the main café floor at approximately 2010m ASL. The eastern face of the building is located on the edge of the drop off to the Te Heuheu Valley. The north face looks back down the mountain whilst to the west is the chair lift and ski area. The new building accommodates café seating for approximately 400 people with servery, kitchen and support facilities all on one level. At this same level, a deck area for approximately 200 people is provided. The main public toilet area, staff facilities and storage are on the level below with separate access from the outside as well connection to the café via an internal stair.

A major consideration in the design of the building was the issue of the remote location. The building was to be constructed during the summer with limited access – all materials had to either be delivered by helicopter or on the near by chair lift – no road access. Alternatively, materials could be delivered over snow in the preceding winter season. The entire building, from foundation beams/floor panels to roof sections and windows was broken down into a modular panelized system, which allowed for delivery, placement and erection by helicopter and on site plant.

The form of the building reflects the strong geological features of the mountain. The “gull wing” roof was to appear to “cradle” the mountains peak. On a practical level is used to manage the snow. The building is designed to cover with up 3.0m of snow. Timber has been used extensively inside and out to create the warm “feeling” of the “traditional” mountain chalet without adopting the traditional form. The glass exterior (particularly to the east wall) is the other feature of the building – allowing full exposure to the magnificence view to the Pinnacle Ridge.

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Photography by Simon Devitt


  1. A building like that around here would be what I'd call putting tool hire lewes to good use. I mean, let's face it, that's a masterpiece of a cafe.

  2. You blog is eye-catching. I get pleasure from it. Thanks for sharing this beautiful piece of writing with me.

  3. its great to see projects that offer concrete help like this!

  4. Hi there, I read your blogs on a regular basis. Your humoristic style is witty, keep it up!

  5. The cafe got a nice nesting place there on top of those sands and huge rocks! It matched the rock colors as well, as if it was meant to be mounted to them. The general contractors mineola ny has done such an amazing project with this one. Kudos to you all!

  6. This is definitely one cafe I's love to hangout with all day long and never get tired of it. I could just imagine how much effort has been put through in order to start this construction, not to mention the equipments, too.

  7. Hi everybody, I am sure you will be enjoying here by watching these hilarious videos.

  8. I'm trying to imagine how they installed the large glass portion of this cafe. Any glass structure makes me wonder how construction workers install all those glass. Well, it's worth finding out!

  9. A house mirroring the owner's closeness to nature, nothing beats the panoramic view design by natural causes. I admire how the building reflects its nearness to the nature perhaps the decorations inside are also environmental friendly.

  10. The architecture is far from what we usually expect from cafes. But it's one of the best ones I've seen. I hope I could find another similar structure, but with a basement for those who want to hide from the bright sun rays.

  11. Another promising architecture. I'm sure a lot of people will get inspired by the structure of this cafe.

  12. If I got a working space like this one, surely I will love working even over time. I think, one good motivation for me is a dolly-up office space and an inspiring view, with that, I could work longer than expected.


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