Scandinavian architects rebrand eco tourism with minimalist mountain pods

Hotel 48° Nord- Alsace, France

Along a hillside in the French region of Alsace, above the town of Breitenbach, a collection of tiny cabins offer travelers access to new eco-conscious accommodation, building on the area’s culinary, wellness, and nature practices. The Hotel 48° Nord project is a collaboration between Emil Leroy Jonsson, a landscape architect and Reiulf Ramstad, an architecture firm based in Norway and Denmark. In a range of four distinct typologies, the architects have reinterpreted the hytte (a traditional Scandinavian hut) and have created a sort of modern minimalistic treehouse retreat.

Located within the pristine setting of a natural landscape protected by the European Environmental Commission and part of the Natura 2000 project, the new eco-accommodation intersects tiny living with sustainable materials.

Each cabin reflects the mindfulness that comes from building with nature, not just alongside it. The dwellings are built on stilts to respect the existing landscape and they can also be easily removed without disturbing the terrain, to later be reassembled on a new site. The huts are built using locally sourced chestnut wooden cladding, originating just five hundred meters away on the opposite hillside. The warmth from the untreated chestnut timber reflects a clever balance between standing out and fitting in, which is the through-line for this project.

What makes the Hotel 48° Nord unique to eco-tourism and the region it surrounds, is its design philosophy, imbedded in what it means to live simply. By designing cabins that are a place for living, you are inserting yourself into the landscape and from there, gaining knowledge from it. Tiny design works in tandem with this idea; designing what is necessary whilst still creating a level of comfort.

Hotel 48° Nord is made up of 14 hyttes ranging from 18sqm (19 sq ft) to 38sqm (409 sq ft) in size all with distinct typologies. For example, the Tree and Ivy hyttes are designed for two adults and stands tall above the ground like cozy treehouses. As its name implies, this models snakes in and out of the surrounding hedges and trees, growing and blending into the grove as if it has always been there. Slim openings in the wooden exterior create privacy for the bedroom and bathroom, whilst a large picture window effortlessly seams the interior to the landscape; truly inserting its guests into the natural surroundings with stunning views.

The Grass hytte is built on ground level for easy accessibility and located close to the hotels main building and facilities. While the larger Fjell retreats are located at the top of the hill slope and built to accommodate families, featuring private outdoor spaces. All of the cabin interiors reflect traditional minimal Scandinavian design, with cool light colored timber and compact built-in furniture throughout.

This project is anchored to its community, one which has adapted and improved eco-conscious habits in many activities, such as eco brewing, beehives, dairy and cheese production, as well as eco farming.


8 : the years for the project to develop from the site discovery to the hotel opening
14 : the number of hytte built for the hotel accommodation
500 : meters between the cabins and the chestnut trees that were cut for the cladding
4 : trees cut during construction
1000 : shrub planted after construction
2 : area (in ha) of the hotel property, a certified AB protected Natura 2000 site
150 : maximum travel distance (in kilometers) for the ingredient of the hotel restaurant

Smart tiny design is supposed to reflect not only our current time, but the one we are hoping to push towards. Whether this is communicated through nuanced building, material or design choices, we should be reminded of the space we inhabit and the space we take up.

This isn’t a hotel, it is a vessel for change; utilizing materials from our own backyard and experiencing a new town through its changes. In this space, you can relax in the comfort of the smartly designed, whilst soaking in the undisturbed landscape that runs alongside it.

Prices for the standard Grass hytte start from 140 euros (159 USD) per night. Hotel 48° Nord also features a restaurant and wellness spa for its guests or they can easily access the local town’s attractions including, hiking, gastronomy, or historical guided tours of the city of Alsace.

Hotel 48° Nord

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