Gone camping: a new scheme in Switzerland's Jura promises a perfect blend of nature and architecture
Jura is world-renowned for its watchmaking heritage, but this is far from the only thing the Swiss Canton has to offer. Covered in leafy forests and green fields, including mountain peaks, lakes and picturesque villages - as well as its own horse breed, the Franches-Montagnes - Jura is an ideal getaway for nature lovers keen to sample Switzerland's fresh air.
The local authority-owned Saignelegier camping site, a property 10-minutes drive from the small town of the same name, offers the opportunity to spend your time there immersed in nature. Set in a forest, visitors are encouraged to cook on camp fires or stoves; electricity is not available. Its growing popularity of recent years meant that expansion was inevitable, however preserving the camp site's unique connection to nature, as well as protecting the surrounding woods, was of paramount importance.
Enter Project Jura, a scheme conceived to add a unique design twist to this camping destination. Coordinated by Jura Tourisme with the help of local architect Sylvain Dubail, the newly-announced proposal consists of the creation of six new light structures, set to be built in the next two years - increasing the camping's capacity as well as establishing its design credentials.
They may be located in a camping site, but these will be no ordinary bungalows. Touching the ground lightly (if at all), to avoid disturbing the nature, the contemporary structures fully respect the site's sensitive nature, offering the bare basics to their guests - along with a hefty dollop of architectural panache.
There is another twist. The pieces are designed by nine practices that first met in the context of the 2014 Wallpaper* Architects Directory. Moreover, they were the product of a unique collaboration between the firms. Participants include Ireland based Architectural Farm, German and Chinese practice Knowspace, Greece based studio LoT, Portuguese brothers Arquitectos Matos, America's Anonymous, Polish firm BXB Studio, French architect Loic Picquet, Basel based studio Haberstroh and locals Dubail Begert. Spending a creative five-day workshop in the Jura countryside, the architects visited the site and perfected their designs, which were announced yesterday.
The result offers something for everybody. LoT and Knowspace worked together on one of the largest pieces - a slim ring standing on high stilts that encompases double the accommodation space than the others. Arquitectos Matos and Haberstroh focused on a concept each, creating an elevated timber cabin, reached by a ramp, and an impressive system of suspended pods, respectively. Dubail Begert designed a tower that echoes its wooded surroundings and focuses the views on the sky above, while the remaining four collaborated on two further structures - a low one referencing an elegant stack of timber planks, and a small retreat wrapped around the trees that surround it and looking out towards the vistas beyond.
The designs include communal, storage and bed areas and all architects focused on creating strong links between interiors and exteriors. 'We wanted to create something that would be in the spirit of the rest of the camping site,' explains Jura Tourisme Director Guillaume Lachat. 'People who come here want something personal. It is all about the experience.'