Knoll Ridge Cafe

Completed 2016

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. 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.

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. 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.
A 100% thermally broken purpose built glass curtain wall was designed for what is possibly one the most challenging environments to build in. 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. All the glass units were fitted with 3 equalising tubes to facilitate onsite argon gas filling, equalising tubes were also used as a precaution for rapid altitude acceleration during flight.
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. 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.