Inaugurated in June 2015, leading Italian design and general contracting company Paolo Castelli decked out the new Mont Blanc cable car stations, Skyway Monte Bianco. With a modern and majestic flair, the interiors of each station feature striking lighting schemes designed by architects Roberto Rosset and Danilo Montovert. Unique in dimension and complexity, the three stations stand at increasing altitudes, each structure marking a technologically advanced expression of the classic ‘Made in Italy’ slogan.
Having begun in 2012 with the installation of the ropeways and basic structures, Skyway Monte Bianco was a long journey to the peak. With no indication from the client in terms of lighting design, Architects were given free reign in choosing the lighting “based on the interior decoration and furnishings specified in each setting along the ropeway,” commented Rosset. “The goal was simply to create a specific and unique atmosphere for each room in keeping with the interior decoration.”
The funicular ascent of Mont Blanc begins at the first station, Pontal d’Entrève, where visitors can start their journey in style at a sleek bar, mixing a few drinks in with the steadily increasing altitude. With a curved metal ceiling high above the bar, tossB’s slender HOOP 950 pendants are suspended half way, emitting a clean white light reminiscent of the surrounding white crystal in cloud and snow. Ensuring bright lighting for both the bar area and the ceiling, the lighting stands at a sharp juxtaposition to the wood, steel and ceramic panels, creating a mix of materials that evoke the magnificent surrounding mountain range.
Becoming increasingly more light headed as the altitude kicks in, visitors can carry on to second stop along the ascent to Europe’s peak, The Bellevue Restaurant at the 2,173-metre high Pavillion Station, featuring a casual dining and relaxation area. A modern reinterpretation of a dining space commonly associated with the traditional use of local wood as a finishing material again creates a conversation with the grand surroundings, letting the lighting steal the interior show. Luceplan brings the interior space to life with Silenzio pendants suspended above each table in oversized jolts of orange fabric. In another contrast, albeit secondary to the lighting scheme as a whole, Viabizzuno’s c2 rotante wall lamps designed by Italian lighting designer Mario Nanni stand on the white walls, adding a seemingly unnatural colour in contrast to the earthly surroundings, emphasising this modern feat that works alongside tradition and nature.
The final stop, the peak of the cable car journey at 3,462-metres high, houses the Punta Helbronner; an angular yet soft space to sit and admire the awe-inspiring surroundings. Here, daylight is given the spotlight, with no shortage nor competition in such panoramic glory. Those brave enough can step out onto the Helbronner roof to immerse their heads in the clouds in what is surely heaven on earth.
“The project was a challenge,” admitted Managing Director Paolo Castelli, “and not just because of the complications associated with working at an altitude of 3,500-metres. Our designers, engineers and architects have succeeded in expertly and accurately developing Arch. Rosset and Montovert’s projects, creating settings that are both convivial and refined, achieving a perfect union with their majestic natural surroundings. Establishing a decorative and architectural dialogue with the beauty of the Mont Blanc was no easy matter.”
The balance achieved in this project is one of expertise and passion; interior natural tones draw the mountains into each station while the lighting serves to make each space stand out in its own right, affirming the modernity of the project while respecting its natural scale. Bringing lovers of nature’s grandeur to the highest of Europe’s heights, the journey along Skyway Monte Bianco is undoubtedly the pinnacle of funicular journeys.
Image credit: Daniele Domenicali