Summer is the perfect time to make an architectural pilgrimage. And there are numerous places around the world where architects have inserted wonderful interventions into natural landscapes, including the Pilgrim Route in Mexico, featuring places of spiritual respite crafted by such names as Tatiana Bilbao, Derek Dellenkamp and Ai WeiWei, and Norway’s National Routes program, where one encounters Peter Zumthor and Louise Bourgeois’s Steilneset memorial to victims of Europe’s witch hunts, among other amazing works.
Now, Snøhetta has designed a number of lookouts along the Nordkette, which is the southernmost mountain range in the larger Karwendel range, which itself is part of the Northern Limestone Alps north of Innsbruck, Tyrol.
That’s a lot of geography. But the Nordkette project is pleasantly simple. The 10 elements that Snøhetta has inserted across 2.8 kilometres – and which scale 142 metres in elevational change – of this rocky landscape are just that: elemental. Rather than showy experiments in form, these Corten steel and larch wood rest stops feel rustic and intrinsic to their sites. One of them is simply a counter, where someone can rest their elbows while taking in the panorama; another is a set of larch wood stairs that stagger down a gentle slope, amphitheatre-style, casting the scenery in the starring role.
The most dramatic perspective is from a viewing platform that “seems to grow out of the terrain” to soar above the landscape. As the architects say, “Standing on the platform, visitors can enjoy uninterrupted views of the Inn Valley below, while the metal grate underfoot gives a sense of floating above the terrain.”
If travellers do wish to engage more specifically with the Nordkette interventions themselves, the engravings on the sides of the Corten steel structures bring into focus the words of Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Presented in German and English, the quotes selected – “Thoughts rise slowly to the surface like bubbles” and “Don’t let yourself be led by the example of other people, but by nature!” among them – tie together the sublime grandness of the natural world with the solace that it inspires in humans.
Called the Path of Perspectives, the architectural trail is composed of 10 viewing platforms spread out across 2.8 kilometres.