wooden facade of the icaro hotel

MoDus Architects Adds a New Wing to Make Icarus Fly

Overhauling an existing hotel in the Italian Alps creates a coherent whole and a symbol for sustainable building.

In Northern Italy, in the middle of the Alps and close to the Austrian border, the third generation of the Sattler family runs the Icaro Hotel. Perched 1.18 miles above sea level, the building dates to the 1930s, when it was a humble mountain lodge that offered little more than shelter from the mountains. Since then, the lodge has undergone numerous alterations, renewals, and expansions, resulting in a heterogeneous mix of loosely connected structures. When another extension was needed in 2018, Angelika Sattler, granddaughter to the founder, asked local firm MoDus Architects to overhaul the entire lodge and develop a new identity for Icaro.

the icaro hotel in the snow

The architects decided to keep as much of the existing buildings as possible, adding a new wing with staff quarters, additional guest rooms and covered parking underneath to the East. The underground car park was dug into the slope behind the building, making cars disappear entirely from the beautiful view to the South. All new facilities are placed into the compact form of the new wing, which mirrors the existing west wing at the exact same angle creating a new, clearly visible symmetry. Of course, the architecture reaches a symbolical dimension here: For the first time in its history, this Icarus not only offers a well-designed entity—it also received its second wing.

a stone bar inside the hotel
a blue seating area in the hotel with taxidermied

While the ground floor is kept as a simple concrete structure while the two upper floors are clad in a striking shell of regional larch wood. This shell remains closed to the North with larger openings only for a few balconies. To the south, Icaro spreads its wings, opening the two-story structure up towards the stunning alpine panorama.

The architecture creates a large wooden frame around the guest room’s terraces, offering some protection from rain, snow, and wind. While the lower balcony creates a straight line following the existing building’s ground floor, the upper terraces are set back into the wooden frame as if looking for additional shelter. In front of them stand 13 massive wooden columns, each 24.7 feet high, spanning over both floors like a little forest.

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The two founders of MoDus, Matteo Scagnol and Sandy Attia, claim, that the “forest” not only highlights the protective nature of this house that appears so tiny nestled in the vastness of the mountains. It also creates a gentle transition between inside and outside, between the human scale and the geologic. Adding to this, the wood and, even more, the intent to preserve as much of the existing structure intact clearly points towards a more sustainable way of building. In an area already feeling the severe effects of climate change — melting glaciers and dwindling natural snowfall—this instinct carries a real urgency.

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