While most destinations offer themselves willingly, a few must be earned. The On Mountain Hut belongs to the latter, a temporary minimalist eco-cabin designed and built by the Zurich-based running brand On as an architectural ode to the majestic landscape which inspired the formation of the Swiss brand.
Situated in Engadin, Switzerland, between the imposing granite-clad Piz Lunghin mountain and Lunghin pass, just getting to the On Mountain Hut requires a 2-hour ascent across technical alpine terrain to reach its doorstep. Gilded by alpine flowers and crowned by flowing clouds – with the occasional curious audience of emo-coiffed dairy cows judging from a distance – the trail zig-zagging to the remote hut offers visitors a silent step-by-step narrative of the motivations and inspirations that gave birth to the brand and now their mountainside dwelling. The trip up also offers opportune conditions for On to demonstrate their new Cloudrock Waterproof hiking boot, their latest footwear engineered to be 35% lighter than comparable hiking footwear.
“We wanted the hut to be the perfect place to enjoy the Alps in all their glory. A place to switch off and reset away from daily life, representing our love of these mountains and also our love of design…a place to go back to the source,” says On co-founder Caspar Coppetti, “Our company was conceived while the three of us [with co-founders David Allemann and Olivier Bernhard] were hiking together here in the Engadin valley.”
While the 2-person cabin sits 2,500 meters above sea level, an elevation quite adept at squeezing the air out of the lungs and cramping the legs of out-of-shape design writers, it would be back below in Zurich at On headquarters where Thilo Alex Brunner – Head of Design at On, founder of design studio BMCO, and Mountain Hut architect – would explain the process and features of their ultimate alpine getaway.
“The hut is designed to be a modular and be easy to be put together and also easy to take apart again, with wooden construction and metal window frames and façade elements to keep weight at a minimum,” explains Brunner, “The exterior is covered with a reflective metal façade which allows the hut to blend into the environment and show off the place which gave birth to our company.”
The self-sufficient and reductive design of the structure is purely spartan; any stay is supplemented with amenities to make an overnight stay for two surprisingly comfortable: solar panels power an interior light and charge mobile devices overnight, a dry composting toilet situated in the back offers the luxury of privacy in a fairly barren landscape, a roof fixture collects and filters rainwater for drinking and washing, a wood burning stove provides warmth, and the On team outfits the hut with pasta, local wine, and snacks for all guests fortunate enough to be given an invite to stay. Perhaps best is a nearby glacial spring producing a supremely quenching flow of H20 enjoyable without filtration – a literal manifestation of On’s “back to the source” mantra.
The On team is scheduled to dismantle their structure in September, but hint of plans to reassemble the On Mountain Hut again next year, possibly in a new location. There’s also talk of taking their unique brand of “fun” as part of “functionalism” to other peaks around the globe.
“There are many more places where we could imagine other On Mountain Huts being built, with materials unique to their sites and as breathtaking as this first design,” says Brunner with a smile.