As part of its annual retreat members of the NCCR Digital Fabrication enjoyed a sunny day at the summit of the Chäserrugg mountain in the canton of St. Gallen. Participants visited the newly constructed Chäserrugg Mountain Station and engaged in an interesting Design-Build Workshop.

The top of Chäserrugg is found at 2,262 meters above sea level. For a small and intrepid faction of the NCCR Digital Fabrication the 4-hour hike was just the start of a fun and interesting day. After meeting their cable car riding colleagues at the mountain top, the entire NCCR gathered for a day of architecture and building.

The new Chäserrugg Mountain Station
The new Chäserrugg Mountain Station was built by the Swiss Architecture Firm Herzog & de Meuron and completed in 2015. Michael Fischer, Project Manager and Partner at Herzog & de Meuron, explained that the project development was greatly informed by the need to sustainably build at the top of the mountain. To keep the project grounded they relied on transport with the existing cable-car, the craftsmanship of the local workers, concrete made from stone crushed on-site, and the structure built using wood from the valley. “From the beginning, we wanted to let people feel that the project was theirs”, highlighted Michael Fischer. Members of the NCCR were guided on a tour of the building, with added insight into the on-site and prefabricated construction processes used, and how they were managed up at 2,300 meters.

One, Two, Three … Fire!
After a lunch in the mountain station, the NCCR participants were faced with an unusual Design-Build-Challenge: to construct a catapult on the top of a mountain. Divided into teams of six, participants had 90 minutes to collaboratively construct a softball catapult from some limited materials such as bamboo, wooden beams, a coconut catapult and string. After 90 minutes of intense design and construction the array of unique catapults were ready for action: “One, Two, Three … Fire!”. Each team then competed in a distance and target shooting match, and although there was a clear winning team, the emphasis on fun and team building was the ultimate prize. Who could have faced this challenge better than the creative designers, engineers, scientists and technicians of the NCCR Digital Fabrication?

The intensive day of architecture and hands-on building gave great insight into challenges of designing and building in the landscapes of Switzerland. The experience not only focused on learning, but the fun of the group experience was important for team building and future collaboration. After a great General Assembly and Retreat the team is already looking forward to the next year’s Annual Retreat.