Since its inauguration in December 2007, more than 4.5 million passengers have taken the Hungerburg funicular railway line in Innsbruck. In 2017 alone, more than 600,000 passengers travelled between the four stations Zaha Hadid Architects designed for the Austrian city. The natural setting is the enchanting Karwendel Alpine Park, the biggest nature park in Austria at over 700 square km. Nordkette, the southernmost of the four mountain chains in the Karwendel, is known as the jewel of the Tyrolean Alps; the mountain chain extending to the north of Innsbruck is a popular place for hiking and winter sports. In this urban and natural context, Zaha Hadid Architects and contractor Strabag won the 2005 design competition for construction of the four stations on the funicular railway line connecting the centre of Innsbruck with Hungerburg. The project, inaugurated in 2007 and appreciated by the public right from the start, was shortlisted for the 2008 Stirling Prize awarded by the Royal Institute of British Architects.
The Hungerburg funicular railway (Hungerburgbahn) is part of Innsbruck’s Nordpark Cable Railway (Nordkettenbahnen). The line links central Innsbruck’s Congress Station, close to the city’s historic centre and the Imperial Palace, with the Nordkette mountain chain, as far as Hungerburg. The funicular line passes through two intermediate stations, also designed by Zaha Hadid Architects: Lowenhaus and Alpenzoo. Passengers arriving in Hungerburg can then continue travelling on the cable car to Seegrube, at an elevation of 1905 m, and then take a second cable car to Hafelekar, the highest peak in the Nordkette mountain chain at 2300 m. A fascinating trip combining architecture with nature, offering beautiful views of the Alps and the city and bringing the mountains right into town: tourists and athletes can travel straight from the city centre into the mountains and onto the ski slopes in a matter of minutes.
Zaha Hadid Architects’s designs for the four stations, Congress Centre Station in the centre of Innsbruck, the two intermediate stations (Loewenhaus and Alpenzoo) and the station at the top in Hungerburg, are all different but share a number of common formal elements. Each station suits its own unique setting, in terms of topography, altitude and passenger routes, but they all share a number of common elements such as a panoramic terrace and a roof recalling natural shapes covered with ice, a frequent sight in the mountains. Each station appears to consist of a cement base, containing the flow of passengers, on which the lightweight roof structure seems to “float”. In 2007 the stations were in the vanguard of construction technology. An expression of visionary futuristic architecture employing innovative design and production methods to translate the flowing shapes of the design into built structures. These were, in fact, the world’s biggest structures built with double curved glass. Zaha Hadid’s project also introduced another important technological innovation, developing a new way of tilting the railway cars. The new technology makes it possible to exceed the maximum slope on the route, in Alpenzoo station, while keeping the floor of the railway cars horizontal at all times for maximum passenger comfort.
Appreciated by citizens and visitors alike, the stations designed by Zaha Hadid Architects have become an integral part of the cityscape in Innsbruck and an important tourist attraction in their own right. Hungerburg’s ten-year birthday celebrations continue until April 6 2018 with a number of events including guided tours of the station architecture.
Design: Zaha Hadid Architects www.zaha-hadid.com
Location: Innsbruck, Austria
Photographers: Hélène Binet, Roland Halbe, Werner Huthmacher