Alpine Shelter Skuta honored in Core77s 2016 Design Awards

A Harvard Graduate School of Design student design project has been named the 2016 Student Winner in the Built Environment category of Core77’s annual Design Awards.

Core77 awarded the honor to Alpine Shelter Skuta, designed by Frederick Kim, Katie MacDonald, and Erin Pellegrino (all MArch ’16). The trio designed the project as part of Fall 2014 option-studio course Housing in Extreme Environments, led by visiting instructors Rok Oman and Spela Videcnik, cofounders of Slovenia-based firm OFIS Architects. The course probed how extreme climatic conditions, especially extreme cold, introduce particular concerns and parameters for architects.

Asking students to design cabins to withstand the harsh Alpine climate, Oman and Videcnik selected the Kim/MacDonald/Pellgrino design to replace a 50-year-old shelter on a plot below Slovenia’s Skuta Mountain, the third tallest peak in the Kamnik Alps.

Following the course, the team worked with structural engineers AKT II—including Hanif Kara, professor in practice of architectural technology—and local mountaineers to develop and shape the structure for the particular Alpine terrain.

Bivak pod Skuto - OFIS Arhitekti. Foto: Anûe Cokl,
Bivak pod Skuto – OFIS Arhitekti. Foto: Anûe Cokl,

Referencing traditional Alpine architecture, the design comprises three separate modules, a system that not only enables transport to the site, but also organizes the shelter space programmatically: one space for storage and food preparation; a second for resting and socializing; and a third containing a bunk-bed system.

Sensitive to the surrounding terrain, the shelter’s outer form, characterized by a shifting roof line, both responds to extreme weather conditions and frames the surrounding mountain view in an aesthetically enriching way. The shelter also honors sustainability: concrete cladding harmonizes with the mountain’s gray stone, while natural ventilation and robust insulation allow for electricity-free performance.

“As modular and portable as possible. A beautiful, sustainable shelter using the least amount of material and can be created anywhere in the world,” remarked the Core77 jury. “Engaging and adapting to nature. A clear winner.”


The shelter’s August 2015 completion offered a capstone of sorts following a series of activity for the design team and their classmates. The studio bred a related exhibition in Gund Hall, and Pellegrino traveled to the Anchorage Museum in April 2015 to present a traveling version of the exhibition. MacDonald and Pellegrino traveled to Slovenia for research in January 2015 after winning the GSD’s Paul M. Heffernan International Travel Award. The shelter was exhibited on the GSD’s Dean’s Wall in the Spring 2016 semester, and the studio also produced a GSD studio report cataloging projects and insights from the entire course.

“It’s a very enriching experience to see a project leave the studio and become a reality,” Pellegrino said. “It poses new challenges, and pushes for innovation in a way that can be hard to address in an academic setting.”

To learn more and view photographs of the design and installation of the Alpine Shelter Skuta, please visit Core77’s feature.

Other coverage: Design Boom; Dezeen; ArchDaily.

All photos © Anze Cokl