Oppenheim Architecture’s Retreat Overlooks The Lago Maggiore


Embedded into the hills overlooking Lago Maggiore, the design of this resort arises from the uniquely varied landscape of Ticino.

A region in southern Switzerland where Alpine peaks and dense forests meet a Mediterranean climate, palm-lined lakes, and Italian-influenced cultural and architectural traditions. The retreat—comprising 108 private residences, a 61-key boutique hotel, and spa and wellness environments—spans three sites along a hillside that rises above the lake. The design embraces the unique landscapes and ecologies of each site to ground the retreat in the spirit of its place.


The first site augments an existing urban context. Working in collaboration with the local community, the project brings a new heart to the existing village, framed by revitalized local artisan shops offering fresh bread, salami, and local delicacies. Residents and visitors explore and inhabit the terraced landscape of gardens, squares, and piazzetta’s of the town, replenished with fountains, and mature trees.

The second site is a reimagined botanical garden site that provides a lush, edible landscape as a backdrop to an exclusive boutique hotel and spa composed of individual ‘Rustico’ villas and hillside spa. Pergolas, orchards, and cascading pools embrace the Mediterranean microclimate, providing season-long comfort under the summer sun. Finally, at 1,200 meters above the lake, a hamlet of secluded ‘Rustico’ buildings are tucked into the chestnut forest. A sensitive reinterpretation of a Ticinese hilltown, this artful choreography of tightly clustered buildings and forest clearings are braced to bear the snows of winter and the days of summer.


The local craft will be combined with state-of-the-art techniques in the realization of the project. Locally quarried granite reclaimed chestnut from retired barns and fallen trees, and stucco made with regional aggregates form the basis of the project’s material palette. The selection of materials is tailored to the specifics of each site. The unique climatic requirements that inform material choices create distinct visual identities that respond to the characteristics of each place. The primary material in the hilltown is stucco. The botanical garden site uses granite, while the forest site uses reclaimed chestnut.

Unique to their settings but unified by their simple geometries and restrained palettes, the architecture of three sites form a harmonious composition across the landscape. Each of the structures is designed with a sensitivity to the exposure to sunlight while framing picturesque views over the valley, lake, and mountains. Taken together, the project establishes a varied experience that takes residents and guests through streets and piazzas to orchards, forests, vineyards, and waterfront terraces—revealing the richly layered Ticino landscape and fostering deep connections between people and the extraordinary natural ecosystem.







Location: Ascona, Switzerland 

Scope: Concept Design

Land Area : 42 sq.km

Total Built-up Area: 12,154 sq.m 

Project Year: 2019


Architect: Oppenheim Architecture 

Local Architect: Aldo Cacchioli Architetto


Principals in charge: Chad Oppenheim, Beat Huesler 

Project Contributors: Tom McKeogh, Rasem Kamal, Esther

 Alcalde Giulliana Giorgi, Jourdan McKee

Images with courtesy of Oppenheim Architecture


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