Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chalet construction in the Mont Blanc region of the Haute Savoie

Continuing the theme of things to see whilst out and about walking, trekking & snowshoeing in the middle mountains around the Mont Blanc massif, we turned our attentions to the many chalets and farmsteads dotted around the hillside. 

The term Chalet means hut of a hearder and comes from the Arpitian speaking part of Switzerland and the old Savoy region of the Western Alps in the 14-century. 
This was traditionally a farm dwelling that supports herds of cattle producing cheese & butter and a seasonal building in high valleys or pastures that supported transhumance which is the movement of farming communities to higher terrain during the summer months as cattle were brought up from lower levels to the summer Alpage (high mountain pastureland and farmstead).

A wooden dwelling that was traditionally built from Larch. Larch was used because of its availability in the area and for its strong, durable, waterproof and rot resistant properties. These days spruce is used for the construction of new chalets as it is more financially viable. 

The buildings have sloping overhanging roofs that when loaded with snow provided insulation. They were constructed on a south facing aspect to gain maximum sun light and warmth during the cold winters. The design featured a stone base on the ground floor with a wooden frame and waney lap above that insulated against drafts and cold winds. The Cortiena or the entrance is normally a large space with the main door set back, again this was again for insulation during the long cold winters. The living area ‘Pele’ was traditionally on the second level. The livestock and farms shared the same building, the animals on ground level, easy access from the pastures and generating heat to the rest of the building. The top floor was used as the hayloft storing feed but at the same time creating insulation from above.  

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