The eco-lodge at Al-Karm, Egypt has gotten me investigating a relatively new form of hotel popping up everywhere. According to an article on Eco lodges by "HowStuffWorks", they can be defined as "an industry label used to identify a nature-dependent tourist lodge that meets the philosophy and principles of ecotourism." In other words, they are looked at as an alternative for for hotels near city centers, instead focusing the experience on the natural wilderness surrounding, while having a minimal, if not positive, impact on the communities and ecosystems surrounding them. Al Karm had no electricity and heated all of the hot water through the use of solar hot water heaters, able to be used year round b/c of the usual lack of cloud cover and abundant availability of sun.
But without even looking for them, Eco lodges are turning up more and more where ever I look. I'm at UC Berkeley's library now and was perusing the shelves only to find an entire issue of C3 devoted to "Resort Hotels Contextual to Region", usually end up meaning some sort of expensive getaway miles away from the hustle and bustle. But the deeper meaning behind the articles is what I'm concentrating on. The upper class has always been on the forefront of exploring hard to access areas, usually just through available means alone, those same locations being next to impossible to get to because of the expenses of transportation costs. Is this heightened concern for posh nature lodging just a desperate cry for spatial and environmental freedom imposed by the over density of cities? Does the so called taming of the wilderness imply a positive or negative outcome for the national parks that house these hotels? Also it should be said that not all of these hotels are either ritzy or glamorous. Al Karm did attract a usually higher eschelon clientele, but the rates were definitely reasonable and the lodging was by no means refined. It could be the wanting for more rustic surroundings is part of the draw as well, such as city slickers going to live on a "dude ranch" in Montana for a few weeks in order to get a taste of the rough and tumble. But with the morality of expensive vacationing aside, Eco-lodges have came increasingly to the forefront in architectural magazines and websites over the past few years. Here are some examples of the ones I've ran across so far, as always, please feel free to add your own findings in as well.
Juvet Landscape Hotel
Valldal, Norway : Jensen & Skodvin
construction cost : 1.28 million
The outcropping of buildings at Juvet is created by exploding the traditional view of one building with all of the rooms housed in it, instead creating a scattering of smaller rooms set clustered together in the landscape. The rooms are positioned close to each other, but with views tightly constricted to the surrounding forest and not the nearby other vacationers. A series of 40mm steel rods driven into the rock support the minimal material interventions of heavy wooden construction.
Patagonia, Chile : German del Sol
construction cost : 10 million
Many of the materials necessary for construction arrived on site by boat, since its location in Patagonia was so difficult to get to. The existing grass that was removed, was kept to form the 24inch layer of earth and plant insulation on the roof of the new hotel [skeptical about this one...].
Atacama, Chile : German del Sol
construction cost : ?
The building is raised 3' off of the desert floor with slits cutting the roof and other outdoor areas to allow breezes to flow through the public spaces.