Cliffhanger: Zaha Hadid’s Messner Mountain Museum is carved into Mount Kronplatz

The Messner Mountain Museum
The Messner Mountain Museum by Zaha Hadid Architects was inaugurated a few days ago in the Dolomite Alps.
(Image credit: Wisthaler)

The Messner Mountain Museum is Zaha Hadid's third project in the Alps, following her seminal Bergisel Ski Jump - a project that despite its relatively small scale has been landmark in the architect's early career - and the 2007 Norpark Cable railway station, both in Innsbruck. The architect's new alpine adventure, officially inaugurated this month, is equally fairly modest in scale, but not ambition. it is also unashamedly modern, featuring the office's signature architecture curves. 

Masterfully carved into the top of Mount Kronplatz, some 2,275m above sea level, this new museum dedicated to mountain climbing sits at the heart of South Tyrol's most popular ski resort in the Dolomites. This is the sixth and final such museum created in collaboration with renowned mountaineer Reinhold Messner - the existing ones in Firmian, Dolomites, Juval, Ripa and Ortles are scattered across the region, designed by different architects.

Hadid's Messner Mountain Museum in Corones is embedded into the ground across 1,000 sq m, with three periscope-like element made of glass-reinforced fibre concrete jutting out from the hill, indicating its presence. Large windows at each end frame the mountain views, bringing plenty of natural light deep into the structure. The building spans three main levels, including ample exhibition space, offices and a cinema. Its 40-50cm thick walls and 70cm thick roof support the earth around it and protect it from the harsh winters. 

The displays present the development of modern mountaineering and 250 years of progress in terms of the climbers' equipments. The architecture team aimed to take the visitors into a journey inside the mountain's grottos, Hadid explains, before leading them out to the terrace on the opposite side, at the lowest level, to experience panoramic views of the region. 

The museum is a mirror of the world of my childhood,' says Messner. '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.'

Surrounded by the famous peaks of the Zillertal, Ortler and Dolomites, the new Messner Mountain Museum is immersed into its surroundings, at one with its rocky context.

the area's Mount Kronplatz

The striking project is embedded into the top of the area's Mount Kronplatz.

(Image credit: Wisthaler)

the mountain's side

Three concrete elements jut out of the mountain's side, marking the museum's presence

(Image credit: press)

hills with plenty of natural light

Equipped with large openings, these elements help bring plenty of natural light, deep into the building.

(Image credit: Werner Huthmacher)

ample space for exhibitions

The structure includes ample space for exhibitions, as well as offices and a cinema.

(Image credit: Werner Huthmacher)

office's signature architectural curves

The interiors feature the office's signature architectural curves.

(Image credit: Werner Huthmacher)

the concrete structure spans

Internally, the concrete structure spans three main levels.

(Image credit: Werner Huthmacher)

panoramic views of the mountainous surroundings

At the building's one end, the visitors can go out to a terrace that offers panoramic views of the mountainous surroundings

(Image credit: press)

climbers' equipment

The museum celebrates mountaineering and the technological achievements revolving around climbers' equipment

(Image credit: press)

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).