Knoll Ridge Cafe by
Harris Butt Architecture

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This cafe by Harris Butt Architecture is perched on the edge of an active volcano in New Zealand's oldest national park (+ slideshow).

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

Also located beside a ski resort, Knoll Ridge Cafe is built to withstand sub-zero temperatures, wind speeds of up to 125 miles per hour and heavy snowfall in the winter season.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

Despite its heavy-duty specification, the building had to be constructed from prefabricated modules light enough to be carried to the site and assembled by a helicopter.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

The base of the building is a system of concrete panels, while the angled roofs and glass curtain walls are supported by a chunky timber frame.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

Dining areas for up to 400 visitors occupy most of the ground floor level and spill out onto terraces that face down towards the foot of the mountain.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

For more architecture featuring volcanos, see our earlier stories about an observation deck in Chile and the entrance to a volcano park in Spain.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

See more projects from New Zealand »

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

Photography is by Simon Devitt.

Here's some extra information from Harris Butt Architecture:


Knoll Ridge Cafe

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

Knoll Ridge Café is located at Whakapapa Ski Field on Mt. Ruapehu, Tongariro National Park. Situated on the side of a mountain the commercial ski field is also sited on what is New Zealand’s largest active volcano.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

The café replaces the original Knoll Ridge Chalet which was destroyed by a fire in February 2009. As a result an ambitious design and build programme was initiated to replace the chalet with a temporary prefabricated facility for the 2009 winter season.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

Once the debris of the original chalet were removed, a 220sqm temporary cafe was erected on the remaining floor slab. This tested the methodology which was later adopted for the construction of the café.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

Rapidly changing weather is typical of the conditions encountered on New Zealand mountains, with Mt. Ruapehu no exception. Designing a building for such a severe environment provided its own set of unique challenges.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

Limited road access to site and stringent requirements meant extensive planning and logistics were required just to get materials to site.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

Prefabricated concrete floor panels had to be rapidly constructed and delivered before the snow melted, these were then hauled over snow 700m up to site before construction began the following summer.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

A major consideration in the design of the building was the issue of the remote location. The entire building, from foundation beams/floor panels to roof sections and windows was broken down into a modular panelised system, which allowed for delivery, placement and erection by helicopter on site.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

Insulated sandwich panels constructed of plywood and LVL form a large extent of the walls and roof of the café. These like most of the buildings components had to be designed with careful consideration not exceed the helicopters 800kg max load limit.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

A 100% thermally broken purpose built glass curtain wall was designed for what is possibly one the most challenging environments to build in.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

The glass and framing system had to withstand wind speeds of up to 200km/ph and temperatures well below freezing. Twenty-five tons of glass was used in the 415m2 of glass façade which was all predetermined and ordered from calculations without a site measure.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

All the glass units were fitted with 3 equalizing tubes to facilitate onsite argon gas filling, equalizing tubes were also used as a precaution for rapid altitude acceleration during flight.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

In the summer season the eastern face of the building can be seen set above the volcanic rock formations located on the edge of the drop off to the Te Heuheu Valley. The north face looks back down the mountain whilst to the west is the chair lift and ski area.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

The form of the building reflects the strong geological features of the mountain. The “gull wing” roof was to appear to “cradle” the mountains peak. On a practical level is used to manage the snow. The building is designed to cover with up 3.0m of snow.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

Timber has been used extensively inside and out to create the warm “feeling” of the “traditional” mountain chalet without adopting the traditional form.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

The glass exterior (particularly to the east wall) is the other feature of the building – allowing full exposure to the magnificence view to the Pinnacle Ridge.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

The new café is located approximately 50m down the mountain from the original chalet site, with the main café floor at approximately 2010m ASL.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

The new building accommodates café seating for approx 400 people with servery, kitchen and support facilities all on one level.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

At this same level, a deck area for approximately 200 people is provided.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

The main public toilet area, staff facilities and storage are on the level below with separate access from the outside as well connection to the café via an internal stair.

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

Architects: Harris Butt Architecture Ltd.
Location: Whakapapa Ski Field, Mt. Ruapehu, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

Knoll Ridge Cafe by Harris Butt Architecture

Architecture Team: Grant Harris, Ian Butt, Kerry Reyburn, Ben Brown
Completion: 2011
Building Size: 1,516 sqm

  • mcmlxix

    Typically I’m not a fan of angularity. The results are often unsettling, and Libeskind… well, enough said. But here it complements the site. What an amazing structure; why is this temporary? What a waste.

  • Chris

    I don't think this is temporary, I believe it was referring to the structure that predated this. I love it, beautiful and intricate itself while still looking back into the landscape.

  • http://twitter.com/decanker @decanker

    It's not temporary, a temporary structure was built in the off-season following the fire to be ready in time for the next season, this was then dismantled to build this permanent building.

  • http://uptodayarch.blogspot.com up_today_arch

    Nice connection to the landscape…

  • http://dailygrail.com/ Red Pill Junkie

    So THIS is where Sam & Frodo grabbed a cuppa on their way to Mordor!