Located on the western side of Austria, the state of Tyrol is known not just for its stunning natural beauty, but also for its rich historical journey dating all the way back to the Roman times. Tyrol has become one of the famous regions that was once desired by its surrounding neighbours from Germany, Italy and France, before it was finally returned to Austria when the country regained its independence in 1955. Recently, Indonesia Design was invited by Tirol Werbung to unravel its design uniqueness within the cities of Kufstein and Innsbruck that are part of the northern side of Tyrol.
Kufstein: The Medieval Splendour of Kufstein
We first visited Kufstein, located right on the border of Bavaria, Germany. We went around the old town, which has a historic fortress, frescoed facades, with centuries-old inns and restaurants. This old town also has several picturesque lanes including the famous Romerhofgasse that will immediately bring you into the medieval time with its overhanging arches, lanterns and frescoed facades.
In the southern part of the medieval city wall in Kufstein, we can see a former gate called Auracher Lochl, another historic landmark in a Tyrolean style that has been welcoming guests for more than 600 years. Started as an inn, the Auracher Lochl has turned into a very unique boutique hotel with features such as the Bridge restaurant that is literally the smallest restaurant in the world, with a seating capacity of only two people per service.
Auracher Lochl is also known for Stollen 1930 – a speakeasy bar that holds the record of the world’s largest Gin collection in the Guinness Book of Records. This hidden speakeasy Gin bar was actually a dark storage space built 604 years ago. However, as time progressed, they discovered the potential and value of this “storage” and decided to transform it into the most unusual Gin bar that has ever existed.
Kufstein old town has many interesting historical buildings that have a Tyrolean architecture style. However, the most important one is known as Kufstein Fortress and it is located right on top of the old town’s centre. Known for its iconic round tower, this fortress has existed since 1205. The fortress that was once the residence for many rulers of Kufstein as well as a prison for many political dissidents during the Austro-Hungarian Empire has now become the City Museum of Kufstein.
The fortress arena is also used for cultural events such as the opera, musicals, as well as the annual Christmas market. This arena also has an impressive convertible roof to prevent bad weather, which was designed by architects from Nikolai Kugel Architekten and Stuttgart. On top of that, this amazing fortress is also equipped with a state of the art glass panoramic funicular that carries all visitors directly to the entrance. At the bottom of the fortress entrance, we can also find the Heroes’ Organ that is recognised as the world’s largest outdoor organ. The organ is played daily at 12 noon and turns into an enchanting mini-concert.
Aside from all the historic sites, Kufstein is also the birthplace of the famous Riedel glassware. The art of glass blowing is a 2,000-year old culture that has existed in this area. However, it was the Riedel family who finally brought this culture into the world stage, creating the finest handcrafted wine glasses with a specific design to bring forth the aromas of specific wines. Visiting the Riedel Glass Factory will show you the long history of the Riedel family, and experience first-hand how these precious glasses are being made.
Here, the glass blowers still use the ancient mouth-blowing method with great care and precision. We can literally look over their shoulder and feel the heat from the fire that makes these fine glasses. This is indeed a very unique place to visit and a place to get a better grasp of how design and great craftsmanship can be mixed and turned into a great product. Without a doubt, Riedel is one of the world’s most luxurious products that is proudly made in the Tyrol region.
The Contemporary Side of Innsbruck
As the capital city of Tyrol, Innsbruck (meaning bridge over the river Inn) is actually the fifth-largest city in Austria and is located on the Inn valley. The city has existed since pre-Roman time and has an international reputation as the winter sports centre. The city has been hosting multiple Winter Olympics since 1964, as well as the 1984 and 1988 Winter Paralympics, and the Winter Youth Olympics last 2012.
One of the magnificent contemporary landmarks in Innsbruck that is related to their reputation as the international winter centre is the Bergisel Ski Jump that has a very futuristic look. This ski jump is actually designed by the late Zaha Hadid. It contains ski ramps and sports facilities, public spaces, including a tower – with a top café and viewing terrace. Rising to a height of almost 50 metres, the structure’s distinctive form (part tower/part bridge) and silhouette extend the topography of the ski slopes below into the alpine sky above.
The Bergisel Ski Jump opened in 2002 and is named after the Bergisel mountain that faces the ski jump. From the viewing terrace, you can see ski jumpers in action and enjoy the beautiful view of the surrounding alpine landscape. It is quite thrilling to see these ski jumpers doing their thing right from the top of this amazing ski jump.
Zaha and Innsbruck have a great love story, with Innsbruck’s beautiful nature and historic landmarks perfectly highlighted by Zaha’s unique design. “Shell and Shadow”, done in 2007, showcased the futuristic work of Zaha that created an organic architectural language of fluidity inspired by natural ice formations for stations along Innsbruck’s northern chain of mountains known as the Hungerburgbahn to the locals.
These lightweight organic roof structures float on concrete plinths, with their soft shapes and contours creating an artificial landscape that describes the movement and circulation within. What is so interesting about this creation is the fact that she used the manufacturing technologies that are developed for the automotive industry to create streamlined industrial design pieces. This amazing work of hers creates a dynamic juxtaposition to the surrounding historical landmarks.
Innsbruck seems to keep many great design surprises and is only a 40-minute drive from the Swarovski Crystal World, a fantastic museum and park surrounding the area with a cafe and their great big boutique that showcases a massive collection of the products. Swarovski company, founded by Daniel Swarovski in 1895 has been growing exponentially to become the most important crystal maker in the world. It has been known that Swarovski elements can be found in many high-end design products, contemporary arts, interior design, accessories, and even fashion design.
A century after Daniel Swarovski created the first crystal product, the company commissioned renowned Austrian artist Andre Heller to create a world of wonder to celebrate Swarovski’s 100th anniversary in 1995. The Swarovski Crystal World or Swarovski Kristallwelten has a thematic centrepiece in the shape of The Giant as the entrance to the museum. He developed the story of a Giant who set out to experience the world and all of its treasures and wonders. With this knowledge, the Giant settled down in Tyrol, where he has watched over his Chambers of Wonder ever since.
The original principle of these Chambers of Wonder is based on the historical chamber of wonders in the castle of Ambras, which was a 16th century attempt to assemble a universal collection of all knowledge known at the time. In the Chambers of Wonder at Swarovski Crystal Worlds, internationally and nationally recognised artists, designers, and architects have interpreted crystal in their own unique ways. They created concepts of space and experience using the sparkling material. Prepare to be amazed by the work of Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Manish Arora, Yayoi Kusama, and Salvador Dali amongst others that are not only iconic but also mesmerising!
The Tyrol region is truly a must-visit destination in Europe. We can hardly wait for the next journey there and to explore the rest of its 18 municipalities.