Energy efficient and boasting incredible panoramic views, the eco-hotel LEAPrus 3912 located on the side of a dormant volcano at an altitude of 4,000 metres is set to be Russia’s next tourist hotspot.
One of several projects planned to boost tourism in the area, the three tubes that comprise LEAPrus 3912 sit under crisp blue skies, on the startlingly white snow close to Priut 11, a former refuge that was destroyed by fire in the 90s that was never rebuilt. Operated by the North Caucasus Mountain Club (the company responsible for tourism development in the region), the hotel opened last September and sleeps 49 people (usually mountain climbers). It sits on the southern side of Mount Elbrus in Caucasus, Russia - the highest peak in Europe and one of the world’s Seven Summits. Despite extreme weather conditions, the collective of Italian architects behind the hotel, is convinced of the region’s potential for tourism, ''...the vastness of the unique natural landscapes and the ancient troubled history of its peoples are the centrepiece of a great potential interest.''
LEAPfactory is known for specialising in designing accommodation for extreme environments; their first project of this kind is the fully functioning Nuova Capanna Gervasutti (2011), a refuge in the French Alps (Mont Blanc, Courmayeur).
In exactly the same style, the LEAPrus 3912 complex consists of pre-fabricated resin and fibreglass tubes that were airlifted via helicopter onto the site. Far from being a scenic wooden Alpine cottage, the hotel actually looks more like a space station. The interiors are long corridor-shaped communal spaces lined with bunk beds. The third tube houses the restaurant and the bathrooms are located in a fourth block.
The hotel’s total area is 139 sq m and its remote location means that it needs to be as efficient as possible. The challenge the designers explored throughout the project was how to build accommodation in uninhabitable environments, which could be used in response to present and future accommodation crises. The tubes function on systems that maximise efficient energy use. Snow is melted to supply water in the bathrooms and the complex has its own mini sewage treatment plant (LEAPecoR) especially designed for high-altitude usage allowing for almost 100 per cent of waste to be recycled. It also features solar panels producing a supply of electricity, an internal solar thermal system designed for heat recovery, efficient LED lighting and under floor heating. The mountain station is furthermore regulated and controlled via satellite offsite to facilitate effective year-round management - and has a lifespan of 50 years.
Located at dizzying heights in an environment that is notorious for its extreme climatic conditions, the station boasts some of the most spectacular mountain views of the northern Russian Caucasus. Designed to provide users with real comfort, the interiors and the architectural design of the units are unique providing a close visual relationship with the surrounding landscape whilst providing elegance, functionality and durability.
With comfort and self-sufficiency LEAPfactory’s main goals for the all-new settlement on the highest mountain in Europe, the result is unprecedented. As LEAPfactory continues its research into the realisation of innovative solutions like these, we can expect to see more prefab modules going up in some of the most inhospitable regions of the world in the not-so-distant future.