Unterer Hauenstein Pass

Passhöhe Hauenstein, Fischer Architekten AG Zürich

The building on the Unterer Hauenstein Pass testifies to a starting point that is unique in terms of location, history, and integration in the landscape. The planned new building meets several different needs – including think-tank, hotel, and excursion restaurant. Through the unusual cylindrical form that establishes a clear identity the architecture has a strong impact on the surrounding area. The new function further strengthens the identity of the Pass and makes it accessible to the public.

The Unterer Hauenstein Pass lies not far from the two important transportation intersections of Egerkingen for the motorway and Olten for the railway, where north-south and east-west axes cross. The cities of Zurich, Basel, Berne, and Lucerne are within a distance of around 50 kilometres, along with numerous national and international big businesses. A trade route since Roman times, the Pass was later used extensively for travel. It was only after the opening of the A2 motorway and the Belchen Tunnel in 1970 that the Unterer Hauenstein – which by then had acquired a motel, restaurants, and a filling station – lost its strategic importance for transportation.

In addition to its long history the Unterer Hauenstein also has a unique value as a landscape. The modelled hilly countryside consists of several spatial “chambers”, hollows and ridges surprisingly interspersed with edges of calcareous rock and stone. This rhythm of gently rounded and sharp-edged, of long and short, deep and high gives the place its character. The site is directly at the edge of the woods, from where the gaze can roam as far as the Bernese Alps.

The residents of the two communities, the surrounding villages and the nearby small towns lack an excursion restaurant, a base from which to go rambling, cycling, or golfing, as well as spaces for larger events. The logistically advantageous geographical location is part of the brief. The new building can be used as a think-tank, a forum, a place for study, research or for the exchange of ideas.

The building defines an orientation point on the Pass. Thanks to the glazed ground floor it appears to hover gently above the terrain, the boundaries between indoor and outdoor space are dissolved. The identity of the Pass is strengthened further by the new function, and it is made accessible to the public, while the ensemble road – building – landscape recalls the historical importance of the place.

The ground floor, where the building connects with the surrounding landscape, is a place for the public. The different functions can be accessed from the entrance hall. The basement is a place for meditation, while the upper floors serve as places for informal encounter and recreation. The approximately 90 bedrooms are organised on four standard floors accessed by three staircases. The view extends as far as the Alps or into the planted courtyard. The experience of movement in space and the social interaction it produces form a characteristic element of the building.

Hauptstrasse 53–55, 4633 Hauenstein-Ifenthal, Switzerland
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Task New replacement building, rezoning
Job type Feasibility study / direct commission
Deliverables Feasibility study
Time period 2018–2019
Challenge Increasing density in the space of the landscape