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

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