A museum with a view

Nick Myall
Thursday 30 Jul 2015

Zaha Hadid has completed a museum at the top of Alpine peak Mount Kronplatz in Italy for climber Reinhold Messner, featuring underground galleries and a viewing platform cantilevered over a valley

Embedded within the summit of Mount Kronplatz, 2,275 m above sea level in the centre South Tyrol’s most popular ski resort in Italy, the Messner Mountain Museum Corones is surrounded by the alpine peaks of the Zillertal, Ortler and Dolomites. Established by renowned climber Reinhold Messner, the museum explores the traditions, history and discipline of mountaineering.

Messner, the first person to climb all 14 mountains around the world over 8,000 metres, and the first to climb Mount Everest without the aid of tanked oxygen, conveys his vision for the MMM Corones: “Kronplatz offers views beyond the borders of South Tyrol to all points of the compass: from the Lienz Dolomites in the east to the Ortler in the west, from the Marmolada Glacier in the south to the Zillertal Alps in the north. The museum is a mirror of the world of my childhood - the Geislerspitzen, the central buttress of the Heiligkreuzkofel (the most difficult climb in my whole life) and the glaciated granite mountains of the Ahrn Valley.”

Zaha Hadid explains the concept of the design as, “the idea that visitors can descend within the mountain to explore its caverns and grottos, before emerging through the mountain wall on the other side, out onto the terrace overhanging the valley far below with spectacular, panoramic views.”

Reinhold Messner’s vision for a museum of submerged within the summit of Mount Kronplatz detailed three very specific positions of where the museum should emerge from ground. “In the first, a window looking out southwest the peak of the Peitlerkofel mountain, in the second, another window should look south toward the Heiligkreuzkofel peak, in the third, a balcony should face west to the Ortler and South Tyrol”.

Informed by the geology of the region, concrete canopies cast in-situ conveying the shards of rock and ice of the surrounding landscape rise from the ground to protect the entrance, viewing windows and terrace.

Reflecting the lighter shades and tones of the jagged limestone peaks of the surrounding Dolomites, the exterior panels are made in lighter shade of glass-reinforced fibre concrete. These exterior panels fold within the museum to meet the darker shaded interior panels that have the luster and tones of anthracite deep below the surface.

At 1,000 sq ms, the museum is arranged over several levels to reduce its footprint. During construction, 4,000 cubic metres (140,000 cubic feet) of earth was excavated and then replaced above and around the completed structure - immersing the museum within Mount Kronplatz and helping to maintain a more constant internal temperature. 

Constructed from in-situ reinforced concrete, the museum‘s structure has walls between 40-50cm, while its roof, supporting the earth that embeds the museum into the mountain, is up to 70cm thick.

The majority of the museum’s exterior and interior panels are made from in-situ concrete; with a formwork of tapered surfaces used to generate the peaks and abutments of the exterior concrete panels, expressing the rock and ice formations of the surrounding mountain landscape. Almost 400 internal and external panels are prefabricated, with the more complex curved elements created by spraying layers of high-performance fibre-concrete into mould carved from CNC-milled foam using the architect‘s 3D model.

A scaffold of steel sections with adjustable brackets to offset tolerances forms the museum’s substructure. Counter-plates for connecting brackets are laminated directly within each panel during the prefabrication process.


Nick Myall

News Editor

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