Zaha Hadid buries a museum in the peak of an Alpine mountain

| 60 comments

Zaha Hadid has completed a museum for renowned climber Reinhold Messner at the top of Alpine peak Mount Kronplatz, featuring underground galleries and a viewing platform cantilevered over a valley (+ slideshow).

Messner Mountain Museum Corones by Zaha Hadid Architects
Photograph by inexhibit.com

The Messner Mountain Museum Corones is the final instalment in a series of six mountaintop museums built by Messner – the first climber to ascend all 14 mountains over 8,000 metres and to reach the summit of Mount Everest without additional oxygen.

Messner Mountain Museum Corones by Zaha Hadid Architects
Photograph by inexhibit.com

Located 2,275 metres above sea level, in the heart of the popular Kronplatz ski resort in South Tyrol, Italy, the building will exhibit objects, images and tools that tell the story of Messner's life as a mountaineer.

Messner Mountain Museum Corones by Zaha Hadid Architects
Photograph by Werner Huthmacher

London-based architect Zaha Hadid – already in the news this month after her design for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic stadium was scrapped – designed a structure built into the side of the mountain, emerging only at certain points to offer specific views.

Messner Mountain Museum Corones by Zaha Hadid Architects
Photograph by inexhibit.com

"The idea [is] that visitors can descend into the mountain to explore its caverns and grottos, before emerging through the mountain wall on the other side, out onto the overhanging terrace with its spectacular, panoramic views from Zillertal Alps in the north to the Dolomites and South Tyrol," she explained.

Messner Mountain Museum Corones by Zaha Hadid Architects
Photograph by Wist Haler

Three large volumes appear to burst through the rockface, each featuring softly curved forms made from glass-reinforced fibre concrete.



The first two form picture windows, framing views of the Peitlerkofel and Heiligkreuzkofel mountains, while the third is a balcony that projects out by six metres, offering visitors a view west towards the Ortler range.

Messner Mountain Museum Corones by Zaha Hadid Architects
Photograph by Werner Huthmacher

More concrete forms emerge from the ground to create canopies that frame the building's entrance.

Zaha Hadid's firm chose cast concrete to give the appearance of rock and ice shards, referencing the geology of the region.

Messner Mountain Museum Corones by Zaha Hadid Architects
Photograph by Werner Huthmacher

Glass-reinforced fibre concrete gives the building's exterior a pale grey tone, while internally the panels become darker – intended to match the lustre and tones of anthracite coal buried underground.

Messner Mountain Museum Corones by Zaha Hadid Architects
Photograph by Werner Huthmacher

The walls of the building are between 40 and 50 centimetres thick in order to support the structure from the pressure of the surrounding earth, while the roof has thicknesses of up to 70 centimetres.

Inside, galleries are organised over three floors, connected by staircases that the firm described as being "like waterfalls in a mountain stream".

Messner Mountain Museum Corones by Zaha Hadid Architects
Photograph by Werner Huthmacher

Zaha Hadid first unveiled the design for the Messner Mountain Museum Corones in 2013 and it opened to the public last week. It joins five previously completed museums dotted throughout the Dolomites, including one created by EM2 Architekten in the 13th-century Castle Bruneck.

"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," Messner said in a statement.

Messner Mountain Museum Corones by Zaha Hadid Architects
Photograph by Wist Haler

"On Kronplatz I present the development of modern mountaineering and 250 years of progress with regard to the equipment," he explained. "I speak of triumphs and tragedies on the world's most famous peaks – the Matterhorn, Cerro Torre, K2 – and shed light on alpinism with the help of relics, thoughts, works of art, and by reflecting the outside mountain backcloth in the interior of MMM Corones."


Project credits:

Client: Skirama Kronplatz/Plan de Corones
Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA)
Design (ZHA): Zaha Hadid, Patrik Schumacher
Project architect (ZHA): Cornelius Schlotthauer
ZHA design team (ZHA): Cornelius Schlotthauer, Peter Irmscher
ZHA Execution Team (ZHA): Peter Irmscher, Markus Planteu, Claudia Wulf
Structural engineer: IPM
Mechanical engineer & fire protection: Jud & Partner
Mechanical engineer: Studio GM

  • Aaron

    Credit where it is due, from the images this is a striking and quite beautiful piece of architecture. I’m fascinated that this kind of cash can be found to build five museums dedicated to a mountain climber though.

  • Seamus

    It looks like they just piled soil on top of the building, nothing very buried about it.

    • Probably a not too artistic way to sculpt this, or just a lack of proper understanding of the site. The building definitely sits on the natural edge, with some piled on top.

    • Chris82

      Agreed. If you want to put it in the mountain at least don’t make it look like the local gardener has dumped a load of soil on top. Misplaced and I can’t say I’m that fussed by this. Again Hadid causes a stir through the medium of poor consideration. Shame. Come on Zaha let’s do something proper for once.

  • It’s not very elegantly buried in the peak of the mountain. It looks more like a bad case of fly-tipping.

  • TFO

    Not so much buried as built on grade and the excavated soils thrown on top.

    • Jess Thinkin

      True, but who would’a thunk to have done it? Or to have sold this child-like concept. The best result of the project, is the fact that it minimises itself in its grand setting! Think maybe Zaha’s design esoterically anticipates the piles of anthracitic detritus just naturally arranging themselves in a more aesthetic mien over the next few decades?

  • Trent

    I like this.

    • RockyMissouri

      So do I!

  • Katsudon

    “Critic of paroxystic consumerism”. Rubble on sneakers. Zaha Hadid – 2015.

  • SteveLeo

    Looks good. Maybe we should tip some loose earth and rocks on the rest of her buildings…

  • spadestick

    Interiors resemble a typical subway station. Best to stick to urban settings.

  • Chris MacDonald

    That’s amazing. Love it.

  • BeggarBoy

    Almost perfect Hadid design, except, you know, for the unburied bits.

  • steph

    It may just be me, but isn’t part of the allure of hiking these mountains freedom from the built environment? An overnight lodge is one thing, but claiming peaks for museums just seems… wrong.

    • Thomas

      Yep, very wrong. And to build like this, buried, blasting away a piece of the mountain is just unethical.

  • Tough crowd. I think it is great. The material and detailing is the same inside and out like the mountain. Sure, the rubble on top is silly but wait until it grows over. Nice project.

  • guisforyou

    Why no credits to the real artist here… the contractor!?

  • Charlie Bing

    Tough crowd indeed. I would like to have read the comments if this had been by another architect… no doubt there’d be feedback like “It looks too much like it was done by Hadid, otherwise I like it a lot.” Criminy.

    • “Context” and “Zaha” are ships passing in the night. It’s all about form with her work. It’s an entirely inappropriate intervention.

  • Eddie Sampaio

    I don’t like it!

  • Dan Earle

    The fill part on top is really crudely done. Even as nature takes it over it is still going to look awkward as there is no attempt to transition it back into the existing land forms. Get a sculptor or a landscape architect to work on it.

  • Lord, make it stop.

  • Jess Thinkin

    Hey Dezeen, what happened to my post on this thread today? I don’t see how it could have offended anyone this time!

  • rrrrich

    Title should read: Zaha Hadid pours soil onto generic shape on Alpine peak.

  • K

    Bury, literally.

  • Concerned Citizen

    If we were so lucky that this would happen to all her buildings.

  • tobi

    For a person like R. Messner, with his background, being a mountaineer who visited the poorest regions of our world (e.g. Nepal) and actually living through a tough childhood in the South-Tyrolean alps himself, the whole project is ridiculous. Hadid does her job as usual, nothing more, nothing less.

  • Guest

    The structure enhances its surroundings and our enjoyment of it. Bravo Zaha Hadid.

  • Gareth Butler

    Some nice images and the design intent is clear in its material usage, and particularly the extended bays over the mountain face. However, to embed a building is to site it correctly, place it sensitively.

    Placing rubble up against and on top of it, the building feels more like an afterthought or just a misjudgement. Zaha can’t be happy with this. It removes any honesty from the intention.

  • Thomas

    This is like the worst project by any architect ever. Just awful and it makes me sad! There are lots of Swiss architects that would have done a much better job in keeping with the local vernacular. This craze of starchitects must die.

  • Chris Young

    Why you need to go “underground” on the top of a mountain is odd. Quite the antithesis to reaching the top.

  • My_Pseudonym

    Soulless and contrived.

  • Oscar M Manterfield

    Great dialog with the surroundings. Zaha found her niche – on top of mountains, our cities are saved. PS, auto correct change her name to Haha.

  • cvduring

    Looks like Zaha read a Frank Lloyd Wright quote at the last minute: “No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together, each the happier for the other.”

  • marmite

    Doesn’t look like a lot of wall space etc to commemorate the climber? Maybe it was the same as the Roca studio where ZHA told the client where they could and could not put stuff, as the building must not be interfered with! Looks good though.

  • SCAQTony

    I think the landscape makes the structure look more beautiful than it really is. To my eyes it looks like a “Disneyland” space (circa 1960s) as to what they thought the future would look like.

  • Zuha

    Nice. I love Zahas dones. The world is better with them than without.

  • Yousif El Helw

    It happened. I actually like a Zaha project.

  • k derrah

    So many negative comments. It may, perhaps, be better in person, but that’s hard to believe. Seems the whole point of summiting a mountain is the experience of being at the top and revelling in the panoramic view therefrom.

    But instead, Hadid has chosen to steal this reward by placing a mediocre blob of concrete in the way and… dump a load of soil atop it.

    What is given in trade for this theft? A chopped up visual experience divided into small, predetermined and unnecessarily blinkered views. Second-year project!

    • amsam

      I don’t understand how you think this works. Hadid “has chosen to steal” the panoramic view? She was commissioned to build a museum there! How could any building designed by anyone not “steal” the possibility of standing where it sits and enjoying the panoramic view?

      Your quarrel is with the commissioner it would seem but as usual Zaha’s name alone evokes so much blind misogynist rage that people stop making any kind of sense.

      • Thomas

        Of course, everyone who doesn’t like awful and out-of-place architecture also hates women. Of course… genius!

      • k derrah

        How could one build and yet not steal the view? Oh, I don’t know… how about placing the building BELOW the view plane of the summit? Use the roof as a platform for viewing the panorama? I’d suggest that a little humility in the face of nature’s far greater accomplishments would have yielded a much better solution.

        Nice job with the sexist angle. Try and keep your comments above the belt and worthy of the discussion.

  • Brendan

    Perfect James Bond villain’s lair. Also, a stunning, monolithic-yet-sinuous, bold-yet-sympathetic design. I think this is my new favourite Hadid building.

  • callingoutbs

    It’s like a spacecraft has landed and tried to disguise itself by covering its invasion with some top soil.

  • James Calbraith

    So she CAN do subtle!

  • Andrea M Giordano

    Nice maya model.

  • Burrlamb

    Nice (snow) job. Pile a lot of dirt on your building so it looks like a space invader took a crap on a mountain, just so you can have the effect of being underground when on top of a mountain. Ridiculous.

    • Jess Thinkin

      Hey! “Nobody ‘splained it to me like that before!” All I got to say is, there goes the neighbourhood!

  • Egad

    This is wonderful. The vitriol over Hadid’s projects is unwarranted. Haters are not objective. Get over yourselves and open your minds already.

    • Jess Thinkin

      Y’know what I’ve discovered in all my occasional forays into online posting Egad? Children often call reasoned, witty, satirical and yes, even sketchy criticism the product of “haters”! Why do you suppose that is?

  • Jim Sowell

    While I am NOT praising her work, at least it wasn’t designed by Michael Graves or (insert similarly horrible PoMo architect). Huh? Silver lining here? I think so.

  • richard scales

    The building is ok, but the installation in the location is ugly. Would have been better bare.

  • I recently visited Zaha’s Middle East Centre at St Antony’s College in Oxford, which is absolutely brilliant, but totally bonkers. An amazing interventionist volume linking two traditional red-brick Oxford buildings by transcending the mere function of providing a small lecture room through submerging this within the overall amazing trumpet-like form. ZHA at their best.

    Not impressed by this mountain-top project working against the unique landscape thereby detracting from the context. Come on ZHA, your office can do better!

  • mat

    Anything else would look better than a pile of rubble…

  • Ghasle

    Reminds me of the house of the Teletubbies…

  • Soupdragon

    Interesting how the concrete is just decoration. They built a regular concrete walled structure, then overclad with precast concrete!