The Pinwheel Shelter by Architecture Studio EX is a mountain bivouac positioned 2,850 meters above sea level in the north-western Italian Alps. It’s a fully reversible and foldable tent constructed from prefabricated CLT panels and aluminum cladding.

This mountain refuge was built in honor of Stefano Berrone, an alpinist who died while speedriding. Thus, its location holds special significance to him and his family. It is situated near the Upper Susa Valley, specifically between the ridges of Mount Seguret and Valfredda, between the towns of Oulx and Bardonecchia. It serves as a stopover at this high altitude where it gets subjected to thunderstorms and other sudden meteorological changes. 

Studio EX says the Pinwheel Shelter provides protection for alpinists “and at the same time helps to explore the relationship between an artificial structure and its natural environment.” Aside from being reversible and foldable, it’s also designed to be lightweight to minimize disruption to the terrain. As such, it stands on a steel base that rests on four prefabricated plinths. This feature allows the tent to be quickly assembled in four days and easily dismantled.

Moreover, it has four windows incorporated in its multifaceted geometry for 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape, which as the team puts it, allows for the exploration of the relationship between architecture and landscape. The aluminum cladding defines an “atmospheric” architecture that engages in a dialogue with the alpine light, the colors of the rocks, and the surrounding snow slopes. This results in a constant interplay of reflections that respond to the dynamic weather conditions. 

Meanwhile, the interior plan of the Pinwheel Shelter involves four wings centered around a symbolic fireplace and each wing has a reduced height due to the sloping roof. This means visitors must duck or either sit or lie down on the wide wood platform where it can fit eight to ten beds. 

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Images courtesy of Studio EX