Project Fall 2014

elop*7 - Alpine Mutations - Focus Finhaut


Project Summary

The Alpine space is complex because it is viewed not disinterestedly from different quarters, giving rise to numerous developments, such as mobility infrastructures, diffuse urbanization, tourist infrastructures and energy production. All of which contrasts with the emblematic landscapes carved out by the farming civilization of yesteryear.

If we are to consider the challenges of rapid economic development, increased tourism, climate dependency and energy crisis, a holistic approach is required. The cross-disciplinary and transnational elop* project aims to propose development strategies for the long-term preservation of this valuable landscape.

As part of the elop* project, strategies and projects will be elaborated for the cross-border territory of Martigny-Finhaut-Chamonix. Students will put forward a vision and (sustainable) development projects for this Alpine region that take into account the area’s special features, with a view to strengthening in the future: the identity, the independence and the coherence of mountain territories.





The Alps have a special feature which sets them apart from other massifs in the world. For more than a millennium, they have been (or were) the site of a deep-rooted farming civilization which still reveals its presence in the agricultural outlines of the landscape.

Modernity has revealed the fragility of this unique and self-sufficient world, made so distinctive by the way in which the customs of a society became embedded in its physical environment. Like a tidal wave, modern technology and the capitalist economy have fractured the coherence of the traditional mountain environment. The mountains have been appropriated from outside by people from the city and the plains, who mobilise its resources and redefine its strategic locations.

Widespread changes can be observed which have stripped mountain territories of their uniqueness. These changes are brought about by:

Modern roads and infrastructures, the most visible signs of the opening-up of trade, giving city dwellers easy and rapid access to spaces that were once isolated.



In bygone years, the population of Finhaut lived off the land in harmony with the seasons. Farmers followed the grass with their herds: winter pastures in the valley bottom, up to Léchère in the spring, the alpine pastures of Emosson and Le Vieux-Emosson in the summer, fairs and grape-harvesting in Martigny in the autumn.

Historically, the village of Finhaut was connected to Chamonix by a mule track, which became the Route des diligences in 1855 and was subsequently upgraded in 1908 with a new railway track. The village of Finhaut then became, like Zermatt, on account of its situation, its climate and the comfort of its hotels, one of the most important destinations in the canton of Valais for a summer stay in the mountains.

Between the two world wars, construction of the first dam to electrify the railways, then the crisis of 1929, brought tourism to a halt. During the war years, hotels were used to house internees or tuberculosis patients. For want of renovation and new customers – the resort did not adapt to winter tourism - the resort closed most of its establishments between the years 1950-60.

With the development of hydroelectricity in 1950 came construction of the Vieil Emosson dam, and 15 years later the Emosson dam. These new constructions brought money into the Finhaut region, making it possible to renovate the old, dilapidated hotels and convert them into apartments. Since the 1990s, thanks to the activity of the dam, Finhaut has retained a stable population of 350 to 400 inhabitants.


In 2011, the commune’s budget rose from 3.5 million to 35 million francs. Along with five other communes in the valley, Finhaut received money from renewal of the Barberine dam hydroelectric concession. The Trient valley now has a considerable budget to push through development and initiate an "Alpine transformation".

Finhaut and its communes are gathering ideas for their development: plans for hotels, renovation work, the construction of apartments for young people... However the Trient Valley lacks a general analysis of its requirements and its territory, particularly on a cross-border scale in the context of the Mont-Blanc region.


The elop*7 project provides a multicultural and multidisciplinary platform capable of envisaging the future of this mountain region in a global, territory-specific context.

Students will be faced with a real situation which is at once physical, social, economic, ecological, cultural and political.


To tackle the project, students will highlight in their preferred order the following vectors of development: energy production / sustainable tourism / the urban situation / nature


In their project, cross-disciplinary teams will answer the following questions:
How to approach the sustainable development of Alpine regions?
How to preserve and promote the spatial and atmospheric qualities of these territories?
How to initiate the transformation of a territory?
How to optimise energy consumption?
What strategies/steps must be followed to ensure a smooth transition?
How can inhabitants be integrated in this development?
How will nature be managed?
Will renovation and/or construction be necessary? Buildings? Infrastructures? Public spaces? 


Brochure elop*7


EXTENDED - Application until July 19th!


For more information about the elop* project see following link