Snøhetta’s proposal for a new Museum Quarter in Bolzano will give “Ötzi the Iceman” a new home. The distinctive building is intended to be located on top of the prominent Virgolo/Virgl mountain, overlooking the South Tyrolean capital of Bolzano in Northern Italy. Together with the planned Bolzano cable car structure, also designed by Snøhetta, the new Museum Quarter on top of the Virgl mountain will serve as a terrace for the city’s inhabitants. As a new landmark for the area, this elevated public space will still be perceived as being part of the city given its proximity to the center of Bolzano and the accessible cable car connection.
The design study has been conducted on behalf of the Signa Group to develop the Virgl as a potential site for a new Museum Quarter. The Museum Quarter is intended to accommodate museum spaces for the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology and the Municipal Museum of Bolzano as well as exhibition spaces for Ötzi the Iceman. The 5,300-year old glacier mummy is a renowned archaeological sensation, as the ice preserved the prehistoric man at an elevation of 3,210 m. In 1991, Ötzi was found fortuitously with his clothing and equipment still intact, providing a unique glimpse into the life of a man of the Copper Age.
The Virgl has always been an important site for the South Tyrolean capital due to its cultural and historical significance, with its prehistoric and Roman traces as well as its majestic green space. Yet the steep Virgl mountain has been practically inaccessible to visitors for almost forty years, following the closing of the city’s historic funicular in 1976.
“The new Museum Quarter will create a synthesis of city and nature, of history and future, of building and landscape, of culture, leisure and knowledge,” says Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, Founding Partner of Snøhetta. “Visitors can meet Ötzi the Iceman, one of the most important archaeological discoveries, on top of the Virgl mountain – a place with a historic atmosphere. They will literally slip under the skin of the mountain, entering it to see the Iceman. In addition, the new Virgl cable car system and the Museum Quarter will provide spaces of cultural significance and recreational value next to the city center of Bolzano”.
The building blends into the surrounding topography and extends the mountain terrain. Together, the elongated museum structure and the ring-shaped station form an ensemble. Arriving from the station, visitors can enter both museums through an open space on the roof and a joint foyer. The roof terrace of the station and the top of the new Museum Quarter building will provide magnificent views of the city and the surrounding landscape, serving as both a meeting point and an arena. The squared roof will act as a vibrant public space, useable for a multitude of activities - from open-air markets to concerts. The surrounding landscape will be developed for leisure activities such as walking, hiking or biking. Through the planned cable car structure and the new Museum Quarter, the Virgl mountain will serve as a cultural and recreational area for the people and visitors of Bolzano. The new Museum Quarter will establish a new landmark for Bolzano and reinforce the city’s international significance as a cultural destination.