Kunsthaus Bregenz

Construction year: 1997
Address: Karl Tizian Platz 1 | BUDAPEST | Hungary | Visit Website
Latitude/Longitude: 47.5047, 9.7477

History of Construction  

In August 1993 the district administration office Bregenz issued the building permit for the construction of a new art museum. The plans and negotiations had already begun in 1989. The design of Swiss architect Peter Zumthor of Haldenstein near Chur had been awarded first prize in the architectural competition. Work on the new building began in 1994; the roofing ceremony was celebrated in November 1996. By the end of June 1997, the administration building was completed, in July the museum building followed. The Kunsthaus was opened on July 25, 1997.

“The art museum stands in the light of Lake Constance. It is made of glass and steel and a cast concrete stone mass which endows the interior of the building with texture and spatial composition. From the outside, the building looks like a lamp. It absorbs the changing light of the sky, the haze of the lake, it reflects light and colour and gives an intimation of its inner life according to the angle of vision, the daylight and the weather.”
Peter Zumthor, Architect

Location and Position   

Within the Urban Context The Kunsthaus Bregenz was built as a solitary construction in a prominent location not far from the lakefront. It fills the space on “Seestraße” between the Theater for Vorarlberg and the main post office that had been empty for many years. The entrance lies on the eastern side of the building facing the town. The administration building, situated in front of the museum towards the city centre, acts as a transitional structure to the smaller and low buildings of the old part of the town. All functional facilities of the Kunsthaus other than those directly associated with the presentation of art are housed separately in this smaller building, which accommodates a library, the museum shop and a café besides the administrative offices.

The actual exhibition building and the administration building frame an open square, which is closed off on the south by the back wall of the theatre, however opens up on one side towards the city. This square links the Kunsthaus to the city life of Bregenz and is used in many ways. The KUB café puts tables and chairs outside during the warmer seasons so that the square is bustling with café patrons. Often the current exhibition includes open-air events.

Peter Zumthor´s design stood out among others because it was the only design to propose a square as an urban open area. All other designs planned a densely built-up area on the available plot.

The facade consists of etched glass shingles with several functions: they lend the building’s main body lightness with their transparency, insulate against cold and heat and form an essential part of the lighting arrangement for the building. The incoming light is refracted for the first time on the facade before entering the interior.

The facade was designed as a self-supporting construction, completely independent from the actual building. Steel framework elements make up the construction which supports the glass shingles on the outside as well as the glasswork on the inside of the structure. In this way it covers the completely free-standing concrete building like a double casing. Between the outer and inner glasswork there is a 90-centimetre wide light pit that makes it possible to direct daylight to the first subterranean level. This gap is equipped with cleaning lifts used for the servicing and maintenance of the building. In addition, it accommodates the lighting installation which illuminates the Kunsthaus during the night.

Ground Floor      

Beyond the entrance, we find a multifunctional room that is used as a foyer, a wardrobe, for the cashier’s desk and for various events. The outer walls on the ground floor and on the first subterranean level are made of etched glass from floor to ceiling.

The foyer offers a good view of the structural design of the Kunsthaus: it was built as a skeleton construction, i.e. not the outer wall, but the interior structural elements support the building. This method of construction has especially been applied in the construction of high-rise buildings. This method makes a free-facade design like this full glasswork construction possible.

Three vertical concrete slabs support the floors and ceilings of the Kunsthaus. These slabs/walls structure the inner space and divide the vertical development of the building. Behind these, you can find the main stairway, the emergency exits and both the passenger and freight lifts. Because these functional utilities have been placed outside the main structure, a great unsupported space for exhibitions has been created in the middle. The Kunsthaus offers 464 m² exhibition space per floor, about 2,000 m² including the ground floor.

Subterranean Level 

Due to the above-mentioned daylight conditions, the first subterranean level can accommodate rooms accessible to the public, such as a lecture room and the museum educational centre, besides stock and maintenance rooms as well as sanitary facilities. The second subterranean level, which is not accessible to the public, accommodates the originals archive, the workshops, a cleaning room as well as electrical, heating and climate controls. All the piping for the electrical, heating and climate-control systems were laid in concrete during construction.

Upper Floors     

The three exhibition floors differ only in respect to ceiling height. The third floor – the floor with the best daylight conditions – measures 4.70 metres, the first and second floor 4.20 metres. The walls are made of exposed concrete that was shuttered with unstructured, completely even panels and, after stripping the framework, were cleaned only with soft soap, but not polished. The floor is made of terrazzo (polished cast concrete), which was dyed dark grey on the first subterranean level and ground floor, while the staircase and the exhibition floors are light grey. The workmanship of the Terrazzo is remarkable for such a large surface area, as expansion joints were not required. This was made possible by inserting ventilation slits on the outer walls to absorb the tension in the floor.


The Kunsthaus Bregenz was conceived as a daylight museum. The facade made of glass shingles serves as a skin to diffuse daylight which first passes through rows of windows and then through the light ceilings in the halls. Although the light has been refracted three times (glass facade, insulating glasswork, illuminated ceilings), it illuminates the halls differently depending on the time of day or year. In this way, a natural lighting atmosphere is created although the building has no visible windows. Over the hanging light ceiling, specially developed pendulum lamps, controlled by an exterior light sensor on the Kunsthaus roof, have been installed that complement the daylight. Every lamp can be controlled separately or as a group and can be infinitely dimmed (light management system Luxmate professional).

The pendulum lamps hang in pairs at a 90° angle to one another and are equipped with 58 Watt fluorescent lamps and diffusion attachments.


The climate control system of the building can neither be seen nor heard because it has been consequently designed as a structural cooling or heating unit. Altogether 28 kilometres of piping filled with circulating water have been installed in the ceilings and walls. This created an active coupling of the room climate to the building’s substance. In addition, the Kunsthaus is bound to the surrounding land: the temperature of the ground-water functions as a coolant in summer, while in winter the water is heated by gas. Plastic pipes within the slotted wall construction with a depth of 27 metres transport water to the piping network in the ceilings and walls. This allows the Kunsthaus to do without conventional air-conditioning units under normal operating conditions. Climbing temperatures in the hot summer months can be kept in check by additionally cooling with incoming air. The costs of construction for this newly developed climate control concept lie 50% below the costs of conventional air-conditioning. Even the consumption of energy during current operation can be kept low in this way. The costs of operation have been prognosticated at one-fifth of the costs for a comparable cubature.

Coupling temperature regulation to the building substance is advantageous for the building’s ventilation system because under normal operational conditions the air has no warming or cooling function. Fresh air is conducted through a gap between the floor and the outer walls to the halls. The used air is sucked in through the gaps between the sheets of glass of the light ceiling and flows out through this space. The fire detection device, which is also installed in this space between ceilings, is coupled to this air suction.

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