Les-2-Alpes ski station, Amphibia Sports Centre France, Architect, Photo, Building, Design

Les-2-Alpes ski station, France : Amphibia Sports Centre

French building by Hérault Arnod Architectes

9 Dec 2008

Les-2-Alpes France – Alpine Ski Station

Cultural, sports and congress center at Les 2 Alpes

Design: Hérault Arnod Architectes


Like many winter sports resorts built in the 1960s, the Les-2-Alpes ski station has identity problems: large buildings put up with no overall design rationale, chaotic relationship with the landscape… The mountains are now looking for a new image to counter the expressions of a sometimes excessive modernity. They want to return to their roots.

Amphibia Sports Centre Les-2-Alpes ski station Les-2-Alpes

There was no ambiguity about the client’s requirement: he wanted a “traditional” Alpine architecture, bearing in mind that what is considered to be traditional Alpine architecture these days is in fact a kitsch mixture of a wide variety of regional styles. We hesitated a long time before accepting the conditions of the commission, which was totally outside our normal fields of interest. Rather than refusing, we finally decided to tackle these questions of kitsch and décor head-on. They are the reality of contemporary building in the mountains, to the point that even the modern and functionalist architecture of ski resorts is gradually being dressed with stone and timber cladding.

Our project for the cultural and sports centre is an experiment in divergence from this language and from the archetypal chalet: because of regulatory requirements, the project is contained within a basic rectangular structure with double pitched roof, like a barn. The building is a telescopic structure split into 3 nested sections – the sports hall, the hall and a communal spaces, the theatre – with both walls and roof entirely clad with wood.

Wood is used here as a cultural referent for the mountains’ image, real as much as imaginary. It is applied as boarding both inside and outside. The timber motif came into traditional regional architecture with the invention of the band saw. It is on the rise again because of the development of automatic cutting systems and computer-controlled cutting. Echoing this technique, nowadays easy to use, the whole height of the sports hall is covered with a timber lacework based on a motif copied from the guard rails of an old chalet. The pattern, enlarged and multiplied to form a regular grid, changes its status and becomes a repetitive, abstract composition. At the back of the wooden skin, the second layer is made up of a dark grey steel industrial cladding alternating with large windows.

The wall of the performance hall is faced with narrow, unjointed wooden strips, with their edges cut at an angle to prevent water accumulating. The name of the facility is burnt directly onto this cladding – another old technique very much in fashion today, recruited into the language of modernity.

All the different construction layers are clearly visible, both on the façades and on the structure. Industrial materials are associated to the wood. Inside the sports hall and the communal spaces, the walls and ceilings are faced with boards, some of them in natural wood and others painted in several colours, in order to generate a sort of “dyeing” effect. The gable walls of the gymnasium are made of natural sand concrete, set with multiple climbing holds in the same range of colours as used for the boards.

The performance hall, with its black painted concrete walls and ceilings, is topped with a large red snowflake-shaped chandelier, which provides both light for the audience and acoustic correction.

Les-2-Alpes France – Building Information

Title: Cultural, Sports and Congress Centre at Les 2 Alpes
Project nominated for the Equerre d’Argent – Moniteur Group’s Architecture Prize – 2005

• Rue du Grand Plan – Mont-de-Lans – Les 2 Alpes (Isère)

• Mont-de-Lans Municipality
• Project coordinator: DDE [departmental development Department] of the Isère

Project management
• Hérault Arnod Architectes, lead architect with François Deslaugiers, associate architect.
Eric Alfiéri, project manager
• Thermibel, fluids
• Batiserf, structure
• Michel Forgue, economics

• 2930 m2 total floor area

• € 4.5 million before tax, including roads and infrastructures

• Competition
• Work began Apr 2002
• Building delivered May 2005

• Performance and conference hall: 380 seats
• Sports hall (1200 m2) and seats: 280 seats
• Communal areas: reception, changing rooms/cloakrooms, entrance hall, meeting rooms

Photos © André Morin

Les-2-Alpes ski station, France photos / information from Hérault Arnod Architectes

Hérault Arnod Architectes

Location:Les Deux Alpes, France

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Les-2-Alpes France

Website: Station de ski alpes