Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter has built a series of compact, timber cabins across the landscape of northeastern France as part of a new eco-hotel called 48°Nord. Perched on the heights of the Alsatian village of Breitenbach, the landscape hotel 48° Nord reinterprets the traditional Scandinavian hytte, a place of retreat and reconnection with wild nature. At the heart of a protected Natura 2000 site, the project was designed to fit into a preserved setting without ever disturbing it.
The project is born from the meeting of two cultures (France and Scandinavia), two passions (nature and architecture), two men (Emil Leroy and Reiulf Ramstad), and an enthusiastic and very supportive local community from the village of Breitenbach.
Breitenbach is a unique hamlet, located between Vosges and Alsace, with a very dynamic community and strongly politically committed to an eco-responsible approach, through various activities like an ecological brewery, beehives, dairy, and cheese production to name a few. The mayor himself, an enthusiastic vegetarian, initiated ecological farming in the village, constantly encouraging new sustainable and ecological business.
A Franco-Danish client, a Norwegian architect, a common attraction for design and natural materials. It was from this exceptional meeting that the 48° Nord project was born. Breitenbach landscape hotel encapsulates daring architecture and design, a spirit of well-being, and a sharp culinary culture. By uniting local identity with the landscape through forms still unseen in the region, the architect gave 48° Nord a unique architectural expression.
The project goal was not to build a hotel per se, but creating a place to live, a habitat to welcome people and take them on a sensual journey by experiencing a new universe in natural surroundings. A place where guests come to meet people and have a moment, whether to share a meal, a weekend of rest, or to hike the Vosges hills and valleys. The architectural approach of 48° Nord echoes this philosophy. The project’s clean design and signature lines inevitably evoke the Nordic countries. However, the vision is also to disseminate an art of living in harmony with the landscape. Despite its simplicity, Breitenbach hotel 48° Nord does not go unnoticed, but surrounded by nature, sobriety guarantees integration within its landscape.
Amidst the trees, natural hedges and wild grasses, and heirs to the Norwegian “hytte”, 14 cabins dot the hillside like boulders on a slope, balancing privacy and outlook. Small, light, discreet, they are simply placed on the hillside. Built on stilts, they are even removable, so that the landscape stays preserved and natural, untouched. The untreated and locally sourced chestnut tree (cut on the hill opposite the hotel) clads all volumes, combined only with large glass openings.
Four distinct typologies compose a family of forms with diverse qualities. The ‘Grass’ hytte, on one level universally accessible, are grouped near the main building. The ‘Tree’ and ‘Ivy’, towering thin and slender, combine verticality and panoramic views. Lastly, the ‘Fjell’, atop the hill, welcomes families with protected outdoor spaces. Interiors are minimal and rustic, qualified by the light-colored wood, snug built-in furniture, framed views, and spatial contrasts—perfectly embodying the Nordic concept of “hygge”.
When entering the site, you meet the main building dedicated to hospitality, catering, and wellness. Its volume is wrapped in Alsatian chestnut shingles fashioned in an integration workshop in Saverne. Responding to the Passivhaus construction label, this intimate setting padded with dark stained wood and finely detailed opens widely onto the landscape and offers a unique place of meeting, exchange, and contemplation. The culinary experience, a meeting between Scandinavian inspiration and local ancestral techniques are season-relevant tastes from nature — all sourced from nearby organic producers and the hotel’s own vegetable garden.
At 48° Nord, luxury is redefined. Space, privacy, calm, sobriety, nature, and fresh air is a new luxury. Perhaps the antithesis of the traditional luxury; the pomp, the superfluous. Alone, facing the landscape, guests are enabled to find another essence of beauty and comfort in the shifting colors of the season, lights and shadows, the very essence of nature’s qualities.