Peak Zaha: Architect’s Stunning Mountain-Top Museum Opens in South Tyrol

The architect’s newest building commands majestic views from its alpine perch.

Courtesy Werner Huthmacher

In 2006, Italian mountaineer and extreme climber Reinhold Messner founded the Messner Mountain Museums (MMM) with a vision to commemorate the evolution and achievements of modern mountaineering. Nine years and five museums later, he has completed the final, sixth installment in his museum suite, the MMM Corones, according to a design by Zaha Hadid Architects. Perched nearly 7,500 feet above sea level on Mount Kronplatz in South Tyrol, Italy, the building is sunken into the mountaintop, with large openings bracketing the summit.

Inside, the concrete interiors are artfully molded, folding ceiling and walls into a seamless surface. Natural light enters through three wide viewfinders that puncture the western face of the mountain, saturating the interior space and drawing visitors to the breathtaking views of the Dolomites. One of these voids leads to the viewing platform, which projects 20 feet out into the cold air towards the South Tyrol and its most famous peaks. The result is a kind of architectural promenade: “The idea is that visitors can descend within the mountain to explore its caverns and grottos,” Hadid said in the press release, “before emerging through the mountain wall on the other side, out onto the terrace overhanging the valley far below with spectacular, panoramic views.”

Some 140,000 cubic feet of earth and rock was dug out of the mountain and deposited atop and along the sides of the museum, giving the impression of a UFO crash-landing. The concrete innards, cast in-situ, echo the surrounding landscape with its fragmented rocks and ice. The prong-like forms encasing the viewfinders are made from a glass-reinforced fiber concrete with a subtle coloring that reflects the region’s colors and hues. The interior, by contrast, emulates the darker tones of anthracite far below surface level.

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Courtesy Werner Huthmacher

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