Interns Design an Artists Retreat

Panoramique is a conceptual artists retreat located on the peak of a mountain in Colmar, France. This "inspiration hostel" was a team effort. Learn more from our fall interns.


Emerging from the peak of an Alsatian mountain rests an artist retreat overlooking the fairytale town of Colmar, France. Panoramique reflects the natural context, with strong horizontal planes extending from the cliffs, and vertical lines evocative of the forest that surrounds the site. Push and pull in the architectural massing creates individual niches for various artistic disciplines, while open collaborative spaces encourage sharing of knowledge and expertise.
The materiality pays homage to Colmar’s, with a strong emphasis on stone, wood, and glass. The cultural custom of individualizing home exteriors by profession is abstracted on the studio facades to give additional visual cues to the artists that work behind the walls.
Located at the base of the complex, the entrance provides public access to the visual arts gallery, performance hall, and library. Moving upwards into the mountain, the spaces transition to semi-private, accessible only to residents, and include the living room, group rooms, room of silence, and an interior courtyard green space. The next two tiers of floors are the artist’s studios and entirely private spaces for housing, reflection, and creation.

This nature-inspired retreat overlooks the city below and crowns the mountain as an icon of art, rejuvenation, and an escape from the everyday.

The Competition

At the beginning of our semester as fall interns, we looked for a research project that allowed us to enter a group competition. Four contenders were identified, but the final selection was a competition through OpenGap called “Inspiration Hostel,” based out of Madrid, Spain.
The brief called for a new type of hostel geared toward artists, writers, musicians, and performers. The series of requirements included a list of spaces necessary to our program – 15 studios (five each for artists, writers, and musicians), two group rooms, a lobby, a gallery, a living room, and a room of silence. The competition allowed each team to choose their own site. We did research on places around the world and talked through which areas might inspire the residents and influence our design.

Our Site

We researched which cities artists want to visit and what kind of meditation spaces artists prefer for their specific lifestyles. After a few weeks of research, we found many artists want to stay in cultural cities where they can showcase and perform their work, but they also prefer being away from the distractions of everyday life to focus on their projects. Using this information, we picked a location at the top of a mountain in Wintzenheim, a mountain range in eastern France in the Alsace region. The site is surrounded by serene forests and overlooks the city and landscapes of Colmar, France.

Colmar is a culturally diverse city due to its French history and proximity to Germany and Switzerland. Bright, colorfully painted façades and ornamentation of wood and stone on buildings create a fairytale-like cityscape. Each year, approximately four million visitors travel to Colmar to experience its international music festival and architectural scene.

Our Process

We realized that nature played a large role in how we approached this competition and design, leading us to an organic “push and pull” for the overarching idea. The site’s location encouraged us to extrude the horizontal planes for living areas and emulate the surrounding trees’ verticality for the main circulation cores. As the building works its way up and into the mountainside, the spaces transition from public to semi-public to private.

The public spaces – including the gallery, performance hall, and library – are open to outside visitors. The semi-public spaces are where residents can mingle together and use collaborative spaces including group rooms, living rooms, and courtyards. The individual artist rooms are the most private, where residents can retreat to their individual living quarters and studio spaces. More natural light is offered in the semi-public spaces to encourage collaboration among the different artistic disciplines of artist, writer, and musician.

When illuminated at night, the large glass circulation towers that emerge from the landscape act as a beacon to the surrounding cities and encourage visitors to make the journey up the mountain to see what this hostel has to offer.


This competition served as a great exercise for design development, time management, and teamwork during our fall intern semester. In addition to other work obligations and deadlines, we needed to come together to divide tasks based on our strengths and availability while simultaneously creating a cohesive and thoughtful design. With the guidance of our experienced advocates and coworkers, we were able to produce an informed and competitive project that showcases our combined strengths.

Katie Haines, Kay Song, Savannah Cook, and Amy Cui
Architectural Interns