An alpine modernist gem

A recent ski trip to the French Alps revealed an unexpected architectural delight. Flaine hidden high up 2,500 meters above sea level and about 10k from Mont Blanc was my base for a wonderful week of skiing and inspirational art and design. The ski resort was the brainchild of a highly successful French industrialist Eric Boissonnas keen skier and supporter of the arts who had amassed a sizeable fortune, he decided to combine his two great passions and construct his mountain resort.

The site was discovered in 1959 by the geophysicist Eric Boissonnas and the Swiss architect Gérard Chervaz, who went on to succeed in their bid to create a fine example of urban development, architecture and design. He brought together a host of leading artists and designers to create Flaine’s remarkable works of art, the architectural master planning and keynote buildings designed by Marcel Breuer the Bauhaus master designer and architect who had been residing in America since the second world war.

The Flaine masterplan encompasses multi occupancy apartment buildings and associated urban spaces, shops, galleries, amenities, concert hall. Gems amongst this wide array are Le Flaine Hotel now listed as a French Historical Monument and the small slate hung Ecumenical Chapel all by Breuer.

The buildings are mainly stark snow capped modernist concrete structures that glimmer against the bright blue alpine sky and snow capped crags that surround Flaine. The buildings elevations are often modeled into a Mondrian(esque) pattern by the integration of dark metal and timber balconies and projections that create rhythm and a kind of architectural tapestry. Particularly noteworthy are the window openings that allow deep recesses and sleek angled shadows.

There are many smaller architectural gems within the overall development two that stand out are the orange pod funicular lift that links Flaine Forum with Flaine Foret, a kinetic splash of colour. And secondly the wonderfully inventive fireplaces that create hubs within open plan communal spaces. For anyone looking to combine modernist architectural interest with a skiing holiday Flaine is the perfect location.

*Image source: Harry Wilson, Flickr

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