Breitenbach Landscape Hotel by Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter proposes a holistic and a true ecotourism experience in Alsace, inspired by Scandinavian traditions and building on the region’s culinary, wellness, and nature opportunities.
-text by the authors
Perched on the heights of the Alsatian village of Breitenbach, the landscape hotel 48° Nord reinterprets the traditional Scandinavian hytte, a place of retreat and reconnection with wild nature. At the heart of a protected Natura 2000 site, the project was designed to fit into a preserved setting without ever disturbing it.
The project is born from the meeting of two cultures (France and Scandinavia), two passions (nature and architecture), two men (Emil Leroy and Reiulf Ramstad), and an enthusiastic and very supportive local community from the village of Breitenbach.
Breitenbach is a unique hamlet, located between Vosges and Alsace, with a very dynamic community and strongly politically committed to an eco-responsible approach, through various activities like an ecological brewery, beehives, dairy, and cheese production to name a few. The mayor himself, an enthusiastic vegetarian, initiated ecological farming in the village, constantly encouraging new sustainable and ecological business.
A Franco-Danish client, a Norwegian architect, a common attraction for design and natural materials. It was from this exceptional meeting that the 48° Nord project was born. Breitenbach landscape hotel encapsulates daring architecture and design, a spirit of well-being, and a sharp culinary culture.
By uniting local identity with the landscape through forms still unseen in the region, the architect gave 48° Nord a unique architectural expression.
The project goal was not to build a hotel per se, but creating a place to live, a habitat to welcome people and take them on a sensual journey by experiencing a new universe in natural surroundings. A place where guests come to meet people and have a moment, whether to share a meal, a weekend of rest, or to hike the Vosges hills and valleys. The architectural approach of 48° Nord echoes this philosophy. The project’s clean design and signature lines inevitably evoke the Nordic countries. However, the vision is also to disseminate an art of living in harmony with the landscape. Despite its simplicity, Breitenbach hotel 48° Nord does not go unnoticed, but surrounded by nature, sobriety guarantees integration within its landscape.
Amidst the trees, natural hedges and wild grasses, and heirs to the Norwegian “hytte”, 14 cabins dot the hillside like boulders on a slope, balancing privacy and outlook. Small, light, discreet, they are simply placed on the hillside. Built on stilts, they are even removable, so that the landscape stays preserved and natural, untouched. The untreated and locally sourced chestnut tree (cut on the hill opposite the hotel) clads all volumes, combined only with large glass openings.
Four distinct typologies compose a family of forms with diverse qualities. The ‘Grass’ hytte, on one level universally accessible, are grouped near the main building. The ‘Tree’ and ‘Ivy’, towering thin and slender, combine verticality and panoramic views. Lastly, the ‘Fjell’, atop the hill, welcomes families with protected outdoor spaces.
Interiors are minimal and rustic, qualified by the light-colored wood, snug built-in furniture, framed views, and spatial contrasts—perfectly embodying the Nordic concept of “hygge”.
When entering the site, you meet the main building dedicated to hospitality, catering, and wellness. Its volume is wrapped in Alsatian chestnut shingles fashioned in an integration workshop in Saverne. Responding to the Passivhaus construction label, this intimate setting padded with dark stained wood and finely detailed opens widely onto the landscape and offers a unique place of meeting, exchange, and contemplation. The culinary experience, a meeting between Scandinavian inspiration and local ancestral techniques are season-relevant tastes from nature — all sourced from nearby organic producers and the hotel’s own vegetable garden.
At 48° Nord, luxury is redefined. Space, privacy, calm, sobriety, nature, and fresh air is a new luxury.
Perhaps the antithesis of the traditional luxury; the pomp, the superfluous. Alone, facing the landscape, guests are enabled to find another essence of beauty and comfort in the shifting colors of the season, lights and shadows, the very essence of nature’s qualities.
Small is beautiful
”48° Nord, it is the meeting of my two passions, my two cultures. Nature and architecture, Denmark and Alsace. I have imagined a space of freedom, open and intimate, where everyone can enjoy the calm of nature. I have created a place to live, simple and friendly, where everyone takes the time to live in a setting of only 14 hytte. This place responds to my deep values with an ecological building, a 100% organic and homemade restaurant from our own vegetable garden and our local suppliers. More than a hotel, it is a universe.”, says landscape architect and the hotel owner Emil Leroy-Jönsson.
Elegant nature, surprising architecture
”The architectural project must find a common denominator to both cultures, fade to the site but not disappear, and show that nature, ecology and modernity are not incompatible.”, says architect Reiulf Ramstad by Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter, Oslo.
Naturally luxurious, luxuriously natural?
“There is a soothing harmony in each hytte. Nothing is superfluous and everything is comfort and refinement. The raw wood and the soft fabrics harmonize. Soft colors respond to clean lines. If the spaces are small, the place is no less vast. The warm sobriety of the decor gives way to the view. In the privacy of your room, you experience a precious tête-à-tête with the landscape and its riches.”, says governess Amélie L’Homel.
“My cuisine is born from the meeting between Scandinavian inspiration and the diversity of local products. Ancestral smoking or fermentation techniques and flavors closer to the surrounding nature form the basis of my menu. From there, I explore. I explore the surroundings to find organic farmers in short supply. I explore nature to unearth new flavors. I explore the processes to sublimate and preserve raw ingredients. The result is an intuitive and creative cuisine, inspired by the land, the seasons and local producers. The possibilities are so vast, the products so seasonal and the ideas so great that my menu evolves according to my desires.”, says chef Frédéric Metzger.
About Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter
Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter is an independent architectural firm based in Norway and Denmark with a high level of expertise and a distinct ideology. The firm is focused on interlacing a strong conceptual approach with experience from past accomplished projects. Over the years, Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter has produced a wide range of innovative and groundbreaking projects encompassing exceptional variation in scale and program. They favor design that conceptualizes place.
8 the years for the project to develop from the site discovery to the hotel opening
14 the number of hytte built for the hotel accommodation
500 meters between the cabins and the chestnut trees that were cut for the cladding
4 trees cut during construction
1000 shrub planted after construction
2 area (in ha) of the hotel property, a certified AB protected Natura 2000 site
150 maximum travel distance (in kilometers) for the ingredient of the hotel restaurant
Little Norwegian-English lexicon
Hytte cottage, cabin
Tre tree, wood
Hygge a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or outdoors, ordinary or extraordinary as cozy, charming or special
Sketches & Drawings
Facts & Credits
Project title Breitenbach Landscape Hotel
Typology Hotel, Hospitality, Landscape, Commercial
Program Landscape hotel with the main building for the reception, restaurant, wellness facility, and the director’s housing, as well as 14 hytte for hotel guests
Location Breitenbach, France
Size 20.000m2 total planning area Hytte from 20m2 to 60m2
Commission type Direct commission (2015)
Status Completed (2020)
Design team Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter in collaboration with ASP Architecture
Photography Florent Michel @11h45
See, also, Pilestredet 77-79 residential complex in Oslo, Norway by Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter, here!