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Smooth glacial waves frozen in time characterise Zarah Hadid’s pivotal contribution to the Alps, the four Nordpark Cable Railway stations, location in Innsbruck in Austria and completed in 2007.
With a brief to design and connect four stations along the scenic railway route uphill to the northern ski stations of the Innsbruck mountains, the challenge lay not only in the ascending altitudes and differing topographies as the mountain advanced upwards, but also to create durable and sustainable structures that could stand the test of hardship weather conditions without compromising the functionality of the stations.
For an architect known for her futuristic style often accompanied by smooth, swooping facades, where tough materials appear softened, Hadid approached this altitudinous project with attention to the local environ and a vision to create a cohesive architectural language.
Zaha Hadid Architects says, “We studied a natural phenomena such as glacial moraines andice movement to develop a fluid language of natural ice formations like a frozen stream on mountainside.”
Using innovative materials and technology became the masterstroke in combating the enduring weather conditions as well as new flexibility in materials which allowed Hadid’s designs to be followed through for the four railways stations: Alpenzoo, Löwenhaus, Hungerburg and Congress. Made of over 850 glass panels and steel rods, the Nordpark Cable Railway created the world’s largest structures using double-curved glass in construction. The swooping, roof structures were the result of state-of-the-art design and manufacture, using CNC milling (multi-point cutting tools) and thermoforming (transforming a plastic sheet into a 3D shape by using heat, vacuum and pressure). The result is a juxtaposition of two different elements described as ‘shell and shadow’ where a light, streamlined roof structure sits over a concrete substructure, a just-caught-in-motion, curved, protective and enjoyable user journey for passengers entering the rail stations as they worked their way up the mountain for ski adventures in the Alps.
The stunning addition to the Nordkette mountains earned Zaha Hadid Architects a shortlisting for the 2008 Stirling Prize by the Royal Institute of British Architects, and the link between city and nature is architecturally strong and a visual testament to the creative legacy of Zaha Hadid.