Dezeen Magazine

Studio Job installs giant crystal-encrusted model at Swarovski theme park

Belgian artists Studio Job have created a room "filled with frivolous expression" for the newly expanded Swarovski Kristallwelten attraction in Austria (+ movie).

Wunderkammer by Studio Job

Studio Job's Wunderkammer at the theme park in Wattens was created as part of the crystal-cutting and jewellery brand's 120th anniversary celebrations this year.

Modelled on a room of wonders – or cabinet of curiosities – built by Medieval castle owners to show off exotic acquisitions, the domed space includes a model of a mountain that was cast in bronze and covered in Swarovski crystals.

Wunderkammer by Studio Job

"This Renaissance 'Room of Wonders' is an elaborate, total work of art, the sort that you can only create a few of during your physical existence," said studio co-founder Job Smeets. "As was common in ancient applied arts it combines a host of ingredients. It is a work of love filled with frivolous expression and accomplished handicraft."

The mountain's slopes are peppered with miniature structures, from traditional Alpine chalets to landmarks including London's Big Ben clock tower and New York's Statue of Liberty.

The colourful turrets of Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow and a fairytale castle are also set onto the sides of the peak. Each of the elements are gilded and hand-painted.

Wunderkammer by Studio Job

A golden railway track that spirals around the structure is loaded with model freight trains carrying gold in their wagons, and a gap in the "rockface" reveals a subterranean train station.

Above the model, which is raised on a circular table, mirrored panels are set into the domed ceiling that resembles the roof of the Pantheon in Rome.

Stained-glass windows in the walls are surrounded by colourful patterns of musical instruments that continue on the central carpet.

Wunderkammer by Studio Job

The room is one of 16 created inside the Giant, a huge grass mound designed by multimedia artist André Heller that has the face of a man on its front, with a waterfall pouring out of his mouth.

One of the first attractions built on the Kristallwelten site, which opened in 1995, the interior has been updated this year as part of the theme park's expansion.

Photography is by Bernhard Aichner.

Read on for Job Smeet's explanation of the project:

Studio Job Wunderkammer

The term Wunderkammer is a generic term that originated in the early Middle Ages when wealthy individuals, dignitaries and royal houses in England, Germany, Italy, France and Austria added a special wing to their castles to display rarities and gifts. These were often unusual and bizarre objects from the arts and crafts and the early sciences and medicine.

Wunderkammer by Studio Job

In fact, these were the first expressions of what we now call "the museum". The difference, of course, was that these Wunderkammer were shown only to the upper-class visitors to the castles. These miniature private museums came about as a pastime and as a way to impress their guests.

Wunderkammer by Studio Job

The early Wunderkammer were "simply decorated" parts of existing rooms in which the so-called curiosity cabinets were placed. As time passed, the phenomenon developed and the whole room (walls, floors, cabinets) was decorated entirely in style.

As the sciences developed more autonomously from the 19th century and distanced themselves from the visual professions, the Wunderkammer became more associated with extreme expressions of craftsmanship and the visual arts.

Wunderkammer by Studio Job

A present-day Wunderkammer is a total experience. As in a knitted fabric, all things in the Wunderkammer are connected with each other. Everything is about the experience. A different world, you are surprised when you walk inside. The architectural symmetry, the monumental centrepiece, the endless detail, the extreme use of materials, graphics and dimensions: macro, micro.

The Swarovski museum is a labyrinth of styles and influences. Adding a new dimension to this labyrinth was an exciting challenge. We decided – as usual – to remain close to ourselves, because personality creates originality.

Wunderkammer by Studio Job

The starting point for our work is a classical-architectural approach, in which symmetry and grid are self-evident. The seemingly strict context actually gives us the freedom to shape our ideas with full expression.

Entering through a beautiful double door, you come into an expansive circular space nine metres across. You immediately see that the entire space is part of a total installation. You see monumental paneling and large, round stained-glass windows with daylight shining behind them, so it looks like the windows open onto an outdoor area. In a kaleidoscopic fashion, the stained glass portrays the views of a greatly enlarged diamond.

Wunderkammer by Studio Job

The surfaces in the classical panels are covered with specially designed wallpaper. Around the room are bronze wall lights that are both classical and contemporary in design. Everything is polychrome, lustrous and glistening. There is a surreal, monumental and colourful atmosphere.

In the middle is a huge, round paper table. This table has polished bronze elements, and surrounding it is a wonderful cast railing with rope that keeps the proper distance between the viewer and the large sculpture that is placed centrally on the table.

Wunderkammer by Studio Job

This mega centrepiece portrays a large-scale mountain-and-train landscape. The object is composed entirely of bronze elements that are gilded silvered, hand-painted and polished.

The jagged mountain peaks are dusted in light snow in the form of inlaid crystal. Just below is a castle inspired by the famous Neuschwanstein castle that was designed by the "Michael Jackson of the 19th century," Ludwig II.

Wunderkammer by Studio Job

This magnificent building is also extremely varied and set apart by the use of materials and colour. In the mountains of this extreme sculpture, many activities and attractions can be seen. For example, there are train tracks that wind down over the rocks of the mountain and forest landscape. A bizarre steam locomotive that resembles the famous Flying Scotsman from the early 20th century rides over the rails. But the landscape also incorporates local houses, a Swarovski factory, castle Neuschwanstein, the Kremlin, the Big Ben, the Statue of Liberty, a statue of Napoleon, a statue of David, the Antwerp Central Station, a mine shaft, tunnels and bridges.

The landscape is even adorned with a helicopter platform between the trees, where a Chinook helicopter has just landed. As if the president of the USA has come to visit.

Wunderkammer by Studio Job

The whole is reminiscent of the life's work of an eccentric model builder who, with angelic patience, has created an immense project in his attic. The remarkable difference is that this is the most extreme and expressive form of the phenomenon: a cottage craft that has taken on supernatural proportions. In that sense, this gold-plated, polished, painted, inlaid and magnificent landscape looks more like a masterpiece from the bizarre workshops of Johan Melchior Dinglinger, who furnished the Wunderkammer for Augustus II the Strong. To date, these works are still decisive for the history of the applied arts.