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17th January 2017

The Evolution of Architecture in the French Alps

Unless they have been purpose built, French ski resorts have their roots in farming and agriculture. Large wooden barns which used to house food and animals dominated the mountain side, and small stone houses huddled together to protect from the cold made up the central village. Influences from nearby Switzerland saw the introduction of the chocolate-box style chalets that have become synonymous with skiing, and the style of architecture remained unchanged for many years.  Over time, as alpine skiing became commonplace and materials and technology improved, we began to see changes in the types of buildings we saw in these mountain towns. 

French Ski Resort Farm House Renovation

 

17th & 18th Century

The foundations of what we now know to be chalets were the traditional farm houses of the agricultural communities of the mountains. 

 

 

St Gervais Ski Resort Thermal Baths France

 

19th Century

The popularity of hot springs as rejuvenating and relaxing havens in the cold winters mean construction of thermal spas around the mountains were ubiquitous.

 

 

 

Lech Ski Resort Austria Austrian Alps

 

Start of 20th Century

The introduction of alpine skiing was the beginning of major transformation in the architecture of the mountains. The 1920’s saw large farming villages into ski resorts, the development of gondola’s and various ski lifts, and ski chalets were created taking inspiration from the traditional Tirolean and Savoyard farmhouses. 

 

 

 

Denis Pradelle Modern Chalet French Alps Courchevel Buy Sell Rent

 

1946

After WW2, architects such as Denis Pradelle (of Courchevel fame) designed functional, modern homes which rejected the traditional style of mountain architecture. 

 

 

 

Looking over Avoriaz Ski Resort in the French Alps France

 

1960s

Purpose built ski resorts such as Avoriaz, Flaine and Les Arcs 1850 were developed following the rapid expansion of the French ski industry to meet the demand for beds. 

 

 

 


Affordable Ski Property France
1970s

Following an economic crisis in 1976, a smaller number of people were able to afford the more ‘glamorous’ ski homes. Newly constructed buildings were designed to be more affordable ensuring visitors even in times which were not so prosperous. 

 

 Denis Pradelle Chalet Extension Courchevel Ski Resort France

1985

Courchevel encourages owners to extend their original ski cottages by adding further levels for more space, which starts a general trend across mountains resorts of the alps.  

  

Megeve Ski Resort France Village Centre by Night

 

2000s

In trying to make sure that the ski resorts live up to the ‘winter wonderland’ ideal that tourists might have, there is a trend towards ‘Disneyland-like’ resort centres which include traditional Swiss-style architecture, car-free centres and Christmas trees lit up by bright lights. 

 

 

Split View Mountain Lodge Norway Ski Resort

 

2010s

The rise of the modern ski home is upon us. Where ski resorts used to be places of conformity and tradition, there has been a move towards contemporary builds which provide a futuristic vision in places that in many ways can be quite dated. 

 

 

 

Also See:

The Rise of the Contemporary Ski Home

Chalet Inspiration - Visuals from some of our Favourite Chalets

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