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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Half Dose #41: Hungerburgbahn

While I try not to feature projects by the likes of Zaha Hadid, who have every completed project published in print and online, this funicular station in Innsbruck, Austria by the Pritzker Prize winner caught my eye enough that I decided to feature it.

[photo source]

Actually comprised of four stations, the just over 1 mile (1.8km) long Nordpark Cable Railway (Hungerbergbahn) connects the center of Innsbruck, Alpenzoo (the world's highest zoo) and, naturally, a mountaintop ski resort.

[photo source]

What unites the stations and a bridge crossing also designed by Hadid (all with colleague Patrik Schumacher) is the fluid canopy designs finished in milky white glass.

[photo by david levene | source]

While the technical achievement of cladding these shapes in glass should obviously be commended, one must ask if the large, dark joints are appropriate, or at least what they are doing. Certainly these joints give the canopies a scale, a direction of sorts, and an indication of the tactile, of the manufacturing process, but something doesn't sit right with this albeit minor detail. Perhaps it's the portions where the joints don't align, as if a patchwork of pieces make up the cladding.

[photo by david levene | source]

Perhaps it's the contrast. Given that the decision was made to express a contrast between surface and joint, I can't help but wonder why and to what effect. To me, what the design, joints and all, becomes is a diagram executed at full scale for a town in the Alps. The grid, a necessary theoretical instrument even with advanced computer modeling, follows the surface of the canopies, as if we see the desktop view of the design in the 3d modeling software. In this case, the leap between computer model and built reality lacks the intermediate decision-making that makes the latter more than an enlargement of the former.

[photo source]

:: Zaha Hadid
:: Times Online
:: Guardian Unlimited
:: World Architecture News
:: dezeen
:: Funimag
:: Retrofutur
:: architectural videos*


  1. i'm glad you chose to break from the mold to show this one.

    that the joints are visible and patchy in spots is for me a feature of some beauty rather than a disfiguring error in judgement. they make all the curves visible and presumably even have a purpose that is purely functional, so make sense beyond the decorative. i really dig that.

    that there is a jump from computer to reality is clear. but i think she and patrick have done a better job than, say NOX, however. Much as I adore and respect the latter, they are quite willful in their work, and will happily make buildings/objects (even ones that face actual weather) that are jointless in order to be more true to the original computer based design. It seems like no compromise with reality is attempted, and the buildings age poorly - and end as advertisements for how architects are out of touch with construction and the real world. Which is a terrible shame.

    With this project Zaha does us the favor of introducing joints and exploiting them in (for me) a nice way. Her work is i think in that sense a much better example of the potential of this sort of style than is otherwise on offer. I am pretty certain the original computer forms did not have those lines, or at least notin those particular locations and that there is in fact a lot of work taking place between conception and execution...and for a change it has been done with some consideration. in this case the final work is more than the computer original. which is nice to see. i hope there will be more of it from now on.

    But then, i rather like those lines. If i didn't i would probably agree with you a hundred percent.

  2. Love patchiness and the squares, above all the tackiness of it all.

    I am trying to think about it as an architectural artifact, and the tectonic form feels like it originated out of a clay scultpture moulded with bare hands and fingers rather than fingers tapping the keyboard and the mouse.

    And the black joints leave an imprint of construction, besides giving me hope that the canopies will maintain their tackiness for a long time to come.

  3. Well put, will and dodo. Fussiness over the joint detail aside, I'm still drawn to these curviliscous canopies. I think Zaha is responding to context remarkably well here, and to think of these somewhere else is to realize that. She might be doing basically the same thing on each project she produces these days (a la Gehry, though not as predictable as him), but that doesn't mean it's necessarily the wrong thing in the wrong place. Makes me wanna go there.

  4. Its a zeitgeist project for sure. Like the tectonic concrete formalism of the 50's and 60's this is another kind of formalism, that instead of bragging about their aptitude in concrete and rebar detailing, they are showing off their computer modeling, and CAM skills. And Rightly so! Architecture needs a swift fish (Ghery) in the ass, especially when you compare it to the progression that electronics, and aerospace has come in the last 100 years. Compair This work to Ghery, the resolution, and care put into these joints simply puts the corner details of Ghery's concert hall to shame. Not to mention it is with slumped glass, not stainless steel.

  5. It doesn't respond to the context at all, its awful and pretty much no different to her other work. A one trick pony that'll get parametricism a footnote in the revised history of 21st century arch. Surely this can't be the new direction, it abuses the architect, the mind and renders creativity stunted with the complete advent of CAD. No more will architects design with their minds, souls and pencils, instead the offices are full of imacs. Not how progression works, people are such silly little sheep. And we need a wolf, to eat them up. (Several in the case of Zaha-maneater-hadid)


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