Light, efficient and aesthetic: At almost 3000 meters above sea level, HP Gasser AG from Lungern is cladding the bottom station of the world’s highest 3S railroad with its ETFE facade solution.
It’s a project of superlatives: on the Kleine Matterhorn at Europe’s highest construction site, work is currently feverishly underway to complete the world’s highest three-cable gondola lift (3S). From the end of September, this will transport up to 2000 guests per hour to 3883 meters above sea level on the Trockener Steg – Matterhorn “glacier paradise” route. The journey to the highest mountain railway station in Europe will take nine minutes.Zermatt Bergbahnen AG is investing 52 million Swiss francs in this markedly improved ski area connection between Switzerland and Italy.
No wonder a multitude of specialists are at work on such a project. “A sure value,” as the architect in charge, Hans Zurniwen, puts it, was HP Gasser AG from Lungern. Under challenging conditions, the membrane builders from Obwalden assembled the north and east facades of the Trockener Steg valley station at 2923 meters above sea level within a very short time. According to Zurniwen, “This is no place for experiments. Here, cooperation must work even better than in the valley.”
Efficient and lightweight
The wooden building by the Zermatt architectural firm arnold/perren/zurniwen is probably unique in this exposure and size. “Not at all the typical steel-and-concrete box,” says Hans Zurniwen, not without pride. And on the facade design: “There’s an insane amount of technology behind the project, which also looks good and is allowed to be shown.” Around 500 square meters of transparent ETFE foil were used – stretched on aluminum profiles and preassembled ready for use. In addition to efficient on-site assembly, the weight of the construction was also a decisive factor: “As soon as you build away from the road, transport is always an issue. Less tonnage means fewer rotations,” Zurniwen refers to the air transport by helicopter.
The detailed solutions were worked out hand in hand with HP Gasser AG during intensive project development, he says. “They always had an open ear for us planners and the client.” For example, the discreet two-rope solution for stabilizing the ETFE foil due to the alpine wind and suction forces was developed. One wire rope on the inside and one on the outside hold the foil in place without making it visually too heavy. All joints and interfaces also had to be sealed to prevent snow. Precision and ingenuity that have already more than proved their worth in the past winter, which was full of snow and storms, as Hans Zurniwen emphasizes. Now the only thing left to do is to wait for the rush of visitors.