This 52,000 sq ft complex was designed for Alaska Rendezvous Heli Guides, an extreme skiing company operating out of Thompson Pass in the Chugach Mountains. Sited in an area that gets 30-80 ft of snow per year, the project incorporates a heliport, maintenance hangar, guest lodge and bar, warehouse and logistics base.
When this project was commissioned in 2001 local environmental concern focused primarily on protecting wildlife habitat from aviation noise pollution and skier-triggered avalanches. Regulating the nascent Alaskan heli-skiing industry was a priority (fig. 3 and ref. 5). Today, the undeniable impact of carbon emissions on climate – particularly from aviation gas – would make it impossible to justify involvement in a project such as this (figs. 4, 5).
The site was selected to minimize flight-time to and from Mount Billy Mitchell’s virgin slopes with descents of up to 5,000 ft (fig. 6 and ref. 2). In Thompson Pass, ski-days are maximized by a weather phenomenon known as a Blue Hole (fig. 7) that results in snowstorms from the north clearing there first. Extreme skiing, an inherently dangerous endeavor, brings helicopters and skiers into close proximity in unstable and often unpredictable terrain. It is organized around ‘zones of hazard’ that establish a safety protocol spanning heliport and avalanche-prone peaks (refs. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8).
Given paramilitary safety protocols for skiers and snowboarders who are there, after all, for the sheer thrill of extreme sport, we asked: Could architecture signal control and freedom simultaneously?
The helipad landing deck is the first ‘zone of hazard’. Looking up after landing, arriving guests see through the wraparound panoramic window that overlooks the landing pads into the control room and bar – danger and pleasure juxtaposed (fig. 15). Relaxing in the bar after a day in the air and on extreme slopes, skiers observe behind-the-scenes safety in action through a one-way mirror that divides the continuous counter shared by bar and control room (fig. 16).
The Bayesian brain hypothesis (fig. 18 and ref. 13) argues that to conserve energy, the brain avoids ‘recreating the world anew’ with each encounter. Instead, this model posits that a nervous system continually makes predictions about the world and updates those predictions based on what it senses. The environment is tapped for thermodynamic free energy and scanned for information that reduces uncertainty. The creation of perception increases certainty and decreases free energy, and the whole cycle restarts.
Southern Alaska, USA
52,000 sq ft
Heliport, hotel, air-traffic control tower, bar, aircraft maintenance hanger and warehouse
SYSTEMS AND MATERIALS:
Steel frame, prefabricated panels, galvanized sheet metal, wood, stone, glass
Alaska Rendezvous Heli-Ski Guides
Lindy Roy with Gavin Bardes, Jason Lee, Michael Maggio, and J. Christopher Whitelaw
Okavango Delta Spa, Hotel QT
Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, ‘New Hotels for Global Nomads’
Henry Urbach Architecture, ‘X-Roy Projects’
SFMOMA, ‘ROY Design Series 1′
SELECTED PRESS AND PUBLICATIONS:
TIME (Special edition Spring, 2004)
Conde Nast Traveler (November, 2004)
bob: International Magazine of Space Design (September, 2005)
Julia Hasting, ed., 100 Architects 10 Critics (Phaidon, 2005)
New Hotels for Global Nomads (Merrell Publishers: 2003)
ROY Design Series 1 (SFMoMA: 2003)
ROY : Architecture of Risk (Michigan Papers: 2003)
Dwell (June, 2002)
Casamica (October, 2002)
The Mixture (November, 2002)
Monitor (January, 2003)
Abitare (October, 2003)
Harvard Design Magazine (Spring/Summer 2004)
Vogue (September, 2007)
Los Angeles Times (August 10, 2003)
Sleeper (February, 2003)
Casamica (September, 2003)
James J. Gibson, ‘Ecological Approach to Visual Perception’ and ‘Ground Theory of Space Perception’.
Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal, ‘Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALS, and maverick scientists are revolutionizing the way we live and work’.