Cube’s name is expressive. The building is a glass cube, unashamedly modernist amongst the traditional Tyrolean valley chalet style architecture. The ‘shock of the new’ is added to by the building being floodlit after dark, and the floodlighting changing colour every couple of minutes.
The floodlighting is computer controlled and can be used for sponsor messages for events, corporate logos etc.That this is acceptable in a remote country community may seem, to English eyes at least, totally unexpected. To a rural community that relies to a large extent on year round tourism then the development is a welcome sign of jobs and prosperity.
The Cube fosters that all year round tourism, driven through the winter months by the snow sports and the rest of the year by the enormous fan base for mountain biking. The hotel has clearly been defined to meet the needs of these sporting communities, with unique provision for their needs. It also offers hang-gliding, walking, child-centred trail experiences using large wheeled scooters and trikes all as a ‘base to stay’ in the mountains.
The third of the Cube hotels to be developed, the Biberwier-Lermoos site meets the location mantra of Mr Hilton perfectly.It is located in a beautifully scenic valley, located at the centre of 100 different cycle tours covering 4,330 kilometres of the Tyrol, and located within 200 metres of the ski-lift system. Location, location, location.
In the summer the ski-lift will even take cyclists to the top of the mountains for the intrepid to use their mountain bikes on the ski trails, downhill only of course.There is also a concrete summer bobsleigh (run on rollers) run of over 1,300 metres, the longest in the Tyrol and enjoyable for children of all ages, even those over 60!
The company has looked hard at the requirements of the tourist in this area, and young or old, rambler, cyclist or skier, they have planned the hotel around those needs.
Inside the difference in design that comes from functionally making provision for bikes and skis etc becomes immediately apparent, as the centre of the Cube is a hollow atrium dominated by ramps. Ramps allow cycles and other sports equipment to be taken to rooms. With mountain bikes costing thousands of pounds for the fanatic, the security of having the bike inside the room is an essential.
Here each of the rooms have a glass fronted ante-chamber,a secure area known as the ‘showroom’ – after all if your bike did cost thousands why hide it? As they say, if you’ve got it, flaunt it and that is what the showroom allows. It gives security and is equipped with rails for storing bikes, skis, snowboards etc, as well as facilities to dry boots or lycra outfits.
There are bike washing facilities and a bike rescue centre at the hotel with an underground repair shop often manned by specialist cycle companies who sponsor challenge rides.
In the winter there is an après-ski nightclub too, with log fires then being a focus of the ground floor, and the hotel is right at the bottom of a major set of ski lifts.
Not only does the bedroom’s ‘showroom’ offer facilities for secure storage of sporting equipment along with specialised drying facilities for shoes, boots, outdoor gear etc., it allows the hotel to guarantee to guests that their gear will be dry in 24 hours. All taking account of the current needs of MAMILs who take to the mountains – MAMILs being Middle Aged Men In Lycra….
The rooms themselves cater for two in the usual German system of two single beds side by side, either separable as singles or zip linked to make a king sized double, always with the separate single duvets. Some rooms come with a double bunk system allowing three or four to share, or catering for families.
Bedroom facilities match most three and four star hotels, with storage boxes, lockable areas, flat-screen TV’s and all the usual offerings of an hotel but in a unique interpretation that allows for real social interaction between enthusiasts.
Food is done with extended service hours in a cafeteria style operation, offering plenty of variety of salads, fruit as well as more traditional meals. Room price includes food, use of the spa and gym and are set at Travelodge levels — extraordinary given the 24 hour bar and snack service offered. There is a small a la carte dining area which has to be booked in advance for a more sophisticated meal offering.
The two bars are popular and well patronised and staff move easily between positions, the whole hotel being run by a staff of 25 – 30 people.
Rooms are unfussy and straightforward. Flooring is either rubber tiles in the ‘showroom’ or using floor carpet tiles in the bedroom. The toilet is a separate facility to the rest of the shower-room, with the whb in between the two. Whilst the whole is simple this does not mean it is not stylish.
Lighting is good, with good reading lights throwing a generous pool of light, and a line of lockable units double as desks and secure storage, each being equipped with power points. The bedside table doubles as a stool, and the copious provision of sockets is great for all those chargers, GPS navigation systems, smart phones, M3 music systems and all the other electronic paraphernalia the under thirties are unable to move without.
Wardrobes could have been sourced from IKEA, and there is no chair in the room. Instead the wide corridors have rows of seating encouraging a communal sharing of experience. When full the atrium echoed with the cries of the cyclists as they exchanged experiences across the space. The showroom with its second door ensured good sound insulation from this ‘street’ activity for the bedroom area.
With the emphasis on sport the atmosphere is redolent of tyres and oil in the summer, and I would imagine full of the equivalent ski scents (embrocation and liniment?) in the winter. Whilst the target audience is the fitness enthusiast, there are plenty of 50 plus guests and families in evidence, and many walkers obviously find the hotel attractive — on my visit in the summer it boasted near 100% occupancy.
That cycling is a popular sport driving occupancy can be seen by the presence of cycle companies in the forecourt, Shimano and Fox both having marquees and staff in attendance. The cycling clubs and their sponsors also enjoy the use of meeting rooms on the top floor, and there is massage and spa facilities available, although for some strange reason cyclists seem to prefer to relax by working out in the gym!
I understand that for both the sauna/solarium and massage services are much in demand after a day on the piste (or bike). There is also a games room with electronic and table games as well as a climbing wall, so off mountain activities are also well catered for.
What is noticeably absent is any room provision for those with disabilities, although there is a disabled toilet provision on the ground floor. In most bedrooms the shower is a wet area which has no step and could be just about wide enough for those with disabilities. Given the success of sporting endeavours in sports allied to the Paralympics, it seems surprising not more effort was made. Of course the cycle ramps provide obvious ease of access for wheels of all variety.
There are suites and family rooms and the Hotel offers itself for business functions with an obvious target market in those companies supplying the growing leisure market. Like the brave planning permission granted for this bold building, it seems that the nature of the audience and location have given a pragmatic edge to the operation which has transmogrified into a new interpretation of a leisure hotel.
The lesson in thinking through the guest profile and requirements prior to design and construction is writ large in the end result. It is one of the boldest, most successful hotel design solutions I have seen yet.
Written by Patrick Goff after a visit in August 2010
All images are Copyright© Patrick Goff