Pass Museum Timmelsjoch – Werner Tscholl Architects
Client: Timmelsjoch Hochalpenstraßen AG
For image credits: see captions
The Pass Museum, view from the Italian side, photo © Alexa Rainer
The Pass Museum at Timmelsjoch, Tyrol by Werner Tscholl Architects
High mountain museums always have a peculiar charm; it is perhaps because the extreme environment where such kind of structures lies, which turns from metaphysical in a Summer sunny day to romantically “sublime” in a cloudy Autumn morning, inspires architects to create iconic building that has enough visual strength to compete with that of a mountain panorama.
Moreover, to build in an high-mountain site is often a titanic (and expensive) challenge, due to the extreme technical performances required, the difficulty to deliver building materials through narrow alpine roads, and to face tough weather conditions for the most part of the year.
This frequently leads architects to “condensate” their vision into small, essential creations; it’s a bit like for alpine wild strawberries growing in a cold mountain habitat: they are minuscule, yet their flavor is utterly intense.
The Pass Museum – background
The Pass Museum, designed by the South-Tyrolean Italian architect Werner Tscholl at the Timmelsjoch high-mountain pass on the Austrian-Italian border, is no exception.
The building is the centerpiece of a sequence of five small “architectural sculptures” which mark a 12 kilometer-long audacious alpine road which links South and North Tyrol, as well as Italy and Austria, through the Ötztal Alps.
Pass Museum, bird’s eye view, photo © Alexa Rainer
The history of the place is that of alpine populations which share the same German dialect, a similar culture, and a common history dating back to Pre-Christian ages, yet that live in two different countries since the end of the World War I, when South Tyrol became part of the Kingdom of Italy; it is a story of brave mountaineers and of smugglers, of herders and of folk heroes like Andreas Hofer, the still-venerated leader of the 1809 Tyrolean Rebellion against Napoleon.
Conceived to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Timmelsjoch Alpine road and completed in June 2010, the museum was built exactly on the Austrian-Italian borderline, 2,509 meters (8,230 feet) above the sea level, and due to its 16-meter long cantilevered span, it has the entrance in Austria and the opposite panoramic window in Italy.
A native German-speaking South Tyrolean architect, yet graduated at the University of Florence in 1981, Werner Tscholl is a true example of what a cross-cultural approach could produce; in this work he combined classic proportions with the sturdiness of a mountain rock, a faceted appearance which resembles that of the brownish roof of South Tyrolean churches with the antique concreteness of the opus caementicium.
Pass Museum Timmelsjoch, site plan, © Werner Tscholl Architects
Werner Tscholl, photo by Karl Gruber
The boulder-shaped tubular building of the museum seems to touch the ground on a single point and to rest in an apparently precarious equilibrium with its cantilevered end protruding in the air.
Conceptual sketch of the Pass Museum building, © Werner Tscholl Architects
The building seems to touch the ground on a single point…, photo © Alexa Rainer
Photo © Alexa Rainer
Structurally, the building is a tube made of reinforced concrete which rectangular section linearly changes across three main polygonal transverse profiles, creating a multifaceted cantilevered volume.
An underground technical level, concealed in a small artificial hill, constitutes the building foundation and counterbalances the weight of the portion of the building which protrudes out of the slope and over the road. A large window at the protruding end of the museum provides a dramatic view of the Passeiertal valley below.
The museum floor plans, © Werner Tscholl Architects
Transverse and longitudinal cross sections, © Werner Tscholl Architects
Photo © Jurgen Eheim
The concrete was made by carefully mixing cement with natural aggregates and pigments so to obtain a brownish tint similar to that of the rock formations around; “We didn’t want to taint the mountainsides with any additional color. As a result of the careful integration of natural materials and colors, all the new elements take a back seat, as it were”, Werner Tscholl says.
Photo © Alexa Rainer
The museum entrance in the Austrian side of the pass, photo © Alexa Rainer
Housing a small permanent exhibition focusing on the long history of the area and the pass as connection points between northern and southern Europe, the museum interior is conceived to resemble an “icy cave” with a large stalactite in the middle, which is actually a glass case fixed to the ceiling which contains a Pre-Christian brooch discovered nearby and dating back to La-Tène period (about 300 B.C.). Historical photographs printed on glass, a scale model of the valley, and the impressive panorama of the Ötztal Alps complete the exhibition.
Interior views of the permanent exhibition, photos © Jurgen Eheim
Photo courtesy Timmelsjoch Hochalpenstraßen AG
Photo © Alexa Rainer
Located along a mountain road straddling the Austrian-Italian border, the Timmelsjoch Experience is an open-air museum of architectural sculptures
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