Providing life-saving shelter in climatically harsh yet beautiful mountaineering areas is necessary, but also very difficult to pull off. Romanian architecture firm Archaeus thankfully succeeded with the Caltun Shelter, an off-grid alpine shelter assembled in Romania’s Fagaras Mountains with help from a helicopter and a team of hardworking volunteers. Archaeus, which built the dwelling under extreme conditions at very high altitudes, said of the project: “Any mistake could lead to failure…so the pressure was high.”
After Archaeus accepted the challenge to design the Caltun Shelter on a limited budget, the Romanian studio went one step further by asking to build the structure as well. By taking the design/build process into their own hands, Archaeus also became responsible for coordinating with helicopter pilots on how the structure would be transported. A team of professionals and 48 volunteers had to hike up to the construction site and assemble the 35-square-meter hut in harsh winds at 2,160 meters above sea level.
Located in one of the most accident-prone areas in Romania’s mountains, the new mountain rescue point was constructed from 30% steel and 70% cross-laminated timber, a lightweight material chosen for its resistance to snow and wind, as well as its warm timber character and “incredible wooden scent.” The shape of the structure was informed by wind studies and the exterior is clad in an aluminum cover sheet, painted in the color of moss. The 6.4-tonne shelter has a pressure resistance of 2 tonnes per square-meter and wind resistance of 160 kilometers per hour.
The interior is clad in naturally finished cross-laminated timber and is split into three main areas: the 21-square-meter shelter that sleeps 19 people; the 11.4-square-meter first aid room that fits three; and a small 2-square-meter kitchen. Photovoltaic panels take the shelter off the grid, while a slanted skylight brings in natural light during the day and emits light at night, giving the building a lighthouse-like effect. “The object itself becomes a signal, a lighthouse…for a new attitude,” write the architects.
Images via Archaeus © Ovidiu Micsa / ADMO Studio