Snøhetta's Winning Design for an Italian Mountain Funicular
For the first time in almost forty years, visitors may soon be able to reach the Virgolo mountain in Bolzano, Italy, by cable car. On Wednesday, Norwegian firm Snøhetta won an international competition hosted by the SIGNA Group for their design of a new mountaintop transit system for the Alpine city.
The trip between the conceptual design’s two ring-like stations—one toward the top of the mountain and the other at its base—will take 71 seconds, according to Snøhetta, making the total travel time from Bolzano’s historic city center, the Piazza Walther, about five minutes.
“This conceptual idea of continuous travel, a continuous journey up to the mountain, inspired us to make this circular design,” said Patrick Lüth, an architect at Snøhetta and one of the lead designers of the funicular. “We utilized the ring to make a panoramic walk that looks into the city center, where then you can get into the car and take off.”
Plans for the top station include restaurant, café, infinity pool, and meeting rooms, as well as a flexible outdoor event space for concerts, open-air markets, and more.
Located in the far north of the country near the Austrian and Swiss borders, the Italian city is a popular tourist destination. Bolzano’s historic cable car closed in 1976, making the Virgolo nearly inaccessible for four decades.
“In the summer in Bolzano, the heat accumulates,” says Lüth, “and as soon as you get up and you get just a little bit out of the dipping elevation of the town you get the cool breeze. That’s the benefit we can give the local community—to get them out of the city and up to the mountain within five minutes time.”
Snøhetta’s plan for the funicular would use locally-sourced Lasa marble, a stone native to the Alps, on the mountaintop plaza and the roof of the upper station. Although the design is still conceptual, Lüth says the competition’s host, the SIGNA Group, would like to see it built by 2017.