Stylepark Zumtobel - Active Light
Mysterious gleam in the Alps
High up above the Rhône valley in the Swiss canton of Valais lies the hamlet of Bürchen, with its 700 inhabitants. The tiny town has chosen to rely on an unusual mix that is a far cry from the customary Alpine kitsch to beat the rivals among the various Alpine villages in the race to woo the tourists: A special combination of mysticism, raw nature, and architecture destined to lure visitors in summer.
To this end, back in 2013 the hamlet invited ten architecture offices to take part in the “Bürchen Mystic” competition – and they included the likes of Snøhetta (Oslo), Coop Himmelb(l)au (Vienna) and Diller Scofido Renfro (New York). The winner was Fernando Menis (Tenerife). His proposal for redesigning the village square is now a reality, and a hotel and other visitor facilities are scheduled to follow.
By the year 2025 Bürchen hopes to emerge as the preferred destination for nature lovers and families – thanks to its “Mystic” concept. The village name “Bürchen” derives from the local word for “birch”. In mythology, it was a holy tree and the symbol of youth. In its image for tourism, Bürchen marries these mystic associations with the treasure trove of Valais legends and the impressive and highly atmospheric world of nature it has to offer.
The first crucial element in the overall planning: the new village square courtesy of Fernando Menis. To this end, the latter teamed up with Zumtobel to develop a special lighting solution: In the hours of darkness, the village’s new heart is mysteriously and yet accurately illuminated.
Here, the moods that the dancing sunbeams create in the surroundings during the day are retraced with artificial light at night. Soft pools of light, resembling those created on the ground when rays of light find their way through shrubs and bushes, serve to illuminate the newly-designed square and move with passers-by across the plaza. In fact, Zumtobel’s lighting solution even takes into account the changes in daylight as the seasons progress. Moreover, these purpose-developed outdoor LED luminaires consist of several light tubes that can be swiveled and aligned with absolute accuracy. Only in this way can the multizonal accents be made with rue precision and a broad variety of lenses combined. The luminaire itself consciously recedes into the background leaving architects maximum design freedom.
“Bürchen Mystic” will grow in the years to come: In the second construction phase, a hotel will arise, which the architect wants to resemble an “inhabited forest”. Fernando Menis’ village square, which opened just under 18 months ago, made the “World Architecture Festival 2016” shortlist of top ten landscape architecture projects worldwide. And Zumtoble has since advanced the special Bürchen solution to create an off-the-shelf product, its “Supersystem outdoor”. (fe)