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food / travel

In Italy's Dolomites, Is There Space For Star Architect's Super Luxury Ski Lodge?

After designing London's Millennium Bridge and the Beijing airport’s international terminal renowned architect Norman Foster is now looking to leave his mark on the Dolomite Mountains, with a ski lodge billed as seven-star luxury. But some local

Children playing in the Italian Dolomite Mountains
Children playing in the Italian Dolomite Mountains
Maurizio Ternavasio

British architect Norman Foster's many accomplishments include the Bilbao metro, London's Millennium Bridge and the Beijing airport's international terminal. He's now ready to add one more to the list: a super-luxury, seven-star hotel slated for construction in Selva di Val Gardena, a charming village in the Italian Dolomite Mountains.

But despite Foster's world class credentials, his high-tech ski lodge isn't receiving universal welcome in the quiet Italian mountain town. The municipality and the provincial administration have not yet given their final approvals, and there has been an awkward uncertainty about who exactly has jurisdiction about what.

The star architect's project promises, if nothing else, to be conspicuous. The hotel will have a saltwater swimming pool overlooking Mount Cimapinoi, and a 360-square-meter suite that will include a conference room, a gourmet restaurant and a ball room. According to its critics – who call the project a 50,000-cubic meter "designer monster" – the hotel will also have a serious impact on the local environment.

Claudio Riffeser, president of the local cable railway company Funivie Saslong Spa, supports the project, which is set to replace an older hotel called Sochers. "This building will boost the local economy and tourism," he says.

Construction is expected to begin in 2012 and finish by the following year. The project's final price tag is expected to be somewhere in the 50 million euro range. The design alone cost 2.5 million euros. Norman Foster, interestingly enough, has never actually been to Selva. But he has employed a team of 10 people who go back and forth between the village and his main offices in London.

The state of the art hotel will receive a Class A energy ranking and will consume less than 30 kWhm2 per year. The smallest rooms will be between 60 and 70 square meters. The transparent corridors and a futuristic 80-meter-long rooftop pathway will overlook the stunning Dolomites. The facility will also offer round-the-clock service. Guests will be able to have their clothes ironed – at any time of the day – in just 20 minutes. The hotel will also have an on-staff hairstylist and limousine driver. In exchange for all that luxury, guests will have to shell out between 700 and 5,500 euros per night.

For now, however, the project is still on hold. So far the municipality has yet to sell the developers a 1,500-square-meter plot of land they'll need to complete the project, which is also lacking authorization from the provincial government. Considering the controversy Mr. Foster's top of the line ski lodge has stirred up, nothing's a given. As "green" as the hotel promises to be, there's still no guarantee local authorities will issue a final green light.

Read the original article in Italian

CORRECTION: due to an error in the original text, an earlier version of this article mistakenly credited Foster with designing Dubai's Burj al Arab Hotel, better known as "the sailboat".

Photo - Lo.Tangelini

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In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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