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Hungerburg Funicular, Innsbruck, Austria

Issue 42 Apr / May 2008 : Architectural : Transport


An unusual lighting solution for an unusual mountain railway.

With the completion of the Hungerburg funicular, London architect Zaha Hadid has produced yet another architectural tour de force in Innsbruck to rank alongside her Bergisel ski jump. The new funicular takes passengers straight from Innsbruck town centre to the Hungerburg station. From there the Nordkette cable car takes travellers up to Seegrube that is more than 2,200m high and offers a breathtaking view of the town and a panoramic vista of the Alps.
In addition to the four stations, Zaha Hadid also designed the bridge over the river Inn that, besides the particularly impressive Hungerburg station, has already become the emblematic symbol of the funicular. It may also soon become a new Innsbruck landmark, especially at night when deliberately, carefully directed light sets the distinctive and uniquely dynamic-looking bridge centre stage.
The architectural concept of the four stations is consistent: roof shells appear to float on top of fair-faced concrete plinths with flowing lines which organically envelop the rail tracks. Their gravity-defying appearance is cleverly achieved by long tapering overhanging structures on small supports like the pistils of a flower.
They are made of thermoformed glass cladding painted white inside and mounted on a steel-rib support structure. This consistent design and construction principle made it possible to respond to the various constraints imposed by the environment, terrain and the track. As a result, they blend seamlessly into the snow and ice landscapes of their alpine surroundings.
In order to emphasise the lightweight construction of the roof shells at night, they are indirectly illuminated by recessed floor luminaires with metal-halide discharge lamps that ensure good colour rendition and a high colour temperature, thereby accentuating the sensational look and materiality of the roof structure. Light reflected from the roof shells provides a large proportion of the ambient lighting in the stations and gives the roofed-over space its open, invitingly bright appearance.
As a result, the roofs of the stations act as orientation waypoints in their environment; between Alpenzoo (alpine zoo) and Hungerburg they are linked by the line of lights along the escape route beside the track - in deliberate contrast to the ski jump. This effect is enhanced further still in the case of the Hungerburg station where the front wall is strongly lit by recessed luminaires.
The required direct light components are provided by Zumtobel recessed wall luminaires and an illuminated handrail system fitted with LEDs that was specially developed together with the architects. This makes it possible to provide lighting components in all the stations that are in keeping with their architectural features. All the luminaires are recessed in the concrete structures. A total of over 160m of handrail was embedded into the sides of all the stairs. An LED continuous row system is installed in the lower area. A lens focuses the light from the LEDs onto the stair surface to be lit, thus pleasantly lighting individual steps.
In addition to the lighting for the four stations, special attention was paid to setting the bridge over the Inn centre-stage at night. The pylons are illuminated so as to accentuate the distinctive shape and lean of the pylons that support the suspension bridge. The structural design of the bridge is deconstructed by selectively and discreetly illuminating only the lower portion of the suspension-bridge ropes. The bridge structure which is cleverly lit by simple extra-protection batten luminaires on the bridge parapets and sides snakes through the pylons like a floating band of light and is reflected in the river below. Another deliberate effect – as the cars pass over the bridge they are laterally illuminated and prominently lit by lights installed in the bridge parapets. Thus, they dart over the river like dots of light before disappearing into the tunnel.


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