In 2013 the State of Tyrol set up an EU-wide open competition which attracted entries by 150 architecture offices from across Europe. In 2014 Franz&Sue were declared winners of this competition.
The collections of the Tyrolean State Museums had been previously accommodated in a number of different locations in Innsbruck. With its new Collections and Research Centre Tyrol now has a compact building that combines storage facilities, workspaces and research laboratories at a single location. The fusion of these different functions paired with Franz&Sue’s architectural approach results in a centre that is an exemplary achievement in the Austrian museum landscape.
Materiality and design of the building
Almost square in shape, the building resembles a treasure chest, a low-rise monolith integrated in the landscape on the outskirts of the town of Hall. Embedded in the sloping site, only a third of the building projects out of the ground, at the rear the visible part is only two metres high. From outside the facade, which is clad with grey, fibre-glass reinforced concrete panels, has a hermetic, unyielding look. The shapes that bulge from some of the panels are based on the imprint of a hand-axe dating from the 7th or 8th millennium BCE, the oldest man-made tool in the collection. The apparently random positioning of these panels on the facade in fact reflects the different locations in Tyrol where the finds were made. By using a modern building material (FibreC), traditional handcraft is combined with contemporary technological developments.
The exhibit is conserved in the facade, so to speak.
Only a few, reduced perforations were made in the building envelope: the vehicle gate, the ventilation louvres, the windows to the carpenter’s workshop and the main entrance penetrate its armour-like shell. On workdays, when the gate is opened outwards, its red inner face glows brightly against the black, free-standing building.
Built like an onion
In formulating their spatial concept the architects met the numerous different demands by applying a simple principle: in a system resembling the rings of an onion, rooms with similar functions are arranged in layers, from outside to inside. The outermost zone contains the storage spaces, the next ring is a corridor or circulation zone, while at the core the work and studio spaces for the ca. 35 team members are grouped around an introverted, green atrium. The design by Franz&Sue won the competition because, as the jury statement put it, “through the clarity of the concept and evident simplicity” the project demonstrates “that this design task can be solved in an unforced, natural way”. With its facades of untreated timber and generously dimensioned ribbon windows, the atrium offers a strong contrast to the hard shell of the building’s closed external skin and provides a work environment of real quality.
Sustainable technological solutions
One of the main tasks confronting the designers was to provide a constant internal climate in the 7,800 square metres of storage space, while keeping the use of conventional technology to a minimum. Two of the building’s three floors are embedded in the earth and can therefore exploit the unchanging temperature of the ground around them. Without the need for elaborate air conditioning technology this allows ideal temperatures and humidity levels to be achieved in the climatically sensitive storage spaces. In addition the building also has a photovoltaic system that generates enough power to run 25 standard households.
Throughout the entire project, particular attention was paid to conserving resources and using eco-friendly building materials.
A place to store, research, conserve
Through airlocks, the circulation ring provides easy access to the items stored in the outer zone – whether one comes from the offices, workshops, packing, unloading and conservation or the photo studio and the carpenters’ workshop. For the conservators, this represents an ideal work situation as the exhibits are kept close to the research rooms and can be inspected quickly whenever necessary. The corridor and offices form a spacious, bright working environment around the atrium, a quiet, green oasis with a high amenity value. The research staff had expressed a wish for a contemplative space of this kind, a request that has been met in an ideal way by the layout of the rooms.