Soaring high in the Alpine mountains, embedded in a medieval city; sits a glass and steel tower of the Bergisel Ski Jump. The design stands as an inspiration for generations of architects to come, channeling many more such Ski Jumps across the world. Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects in 1999, the Bergisel Ski Jump overlooks the downtown of Innsbruck; inviting sports enthusiasts as well as tourists. A major landmark in the Austrian city of rich architectural and cultural heritage, the Ski Jump dominates the skyline of the city since its opening in 2002.
The hill has historic relevance from times where Tyroleans fought for their country’s freedom on the hill. In 1925, the first ski jump was built on this historic site. The ski jump is one of the important venues for hosting the third competition of the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup of the prestigious Four Hills Tournament. Therefore, it is an important venue for athletes around the world. But the old ski jump did not adhere to the international standards, so a new one needed to be built. Austrian Ski Federation hosted a competition for a new proposal replacing the old Ski Jump. Zaha Hadid Architects won the first prize in the competition of Bergisel Betriebsgesellschaft in 1999, and the construction of the new Ski Jump began in December of 1999. The brief included design of recreational spaces, sundeck, and cafe with the sports facility, a bizarre concept at the time.
The solution was a dynamic yet graceful, aesthetic yet flexible cross of a tower and bridge, standing out from the others by casting an impelling silhouette on the city. The Bergisel Ski Jump is Zaha Hadid’s first project in Austria; completely depicting the sport of speed, dynamicity, and power.
The functional design with the sweeping lines and seamless hybrid of spaces stands like a monument. Jan Hubener, the project manager discussed the project in an interview, “Originally, there was an abstract design idea that developed relatively independently from the competition regulations. It turned out during the design process that there was no problem to install the whole program into this abstract idea, it was flexible enough.” This modern-looking structure was initially rejected by some of the locals, due to the juxtaposition it had with the city. Despite the opposition, the construction of the new proposal began.
The various program requirements make up a single, unified structure with the ski ramp sloping along the mountain. Covering an area of 1470 square meters and a built-up of 355 square meters, the project cost about 15,600,000 Euro. The tall concrete shaft of the tower seven square meters in the plan is combined with a spatial green steel structure integrating the ramp and the café. The length is about 90 meters and the height is 50 meters, with two elevators bringing the visitors up. The top of the structure opens up into the café and the viewing decks. The public spaces are blended with the ski ramp like a cohesive whole, allowing uninterrupted panoramic views. The lower levels have technical rooms, office staff space, warehouse, and preparation area for the jumpers.
The hybrid structure was built underground, on the surface, and initially was complicated to build. The structure is made with mathematical precision achieving the highest standards in design. The ramp frame is column-free over the 68.5-meter slope inclined at 35 degrees. The ramp has a U-shape cross-section. The construction process included difficulties like a difficult building site and uneven topography. These challenges came together with less construction time and high technical demands of the structure. Many alterations needed to be made before the construction was complete. The structural elements are not different systems but were built-in parts. The monolithic reinforced concrete structure was poured in place using a climber. Reinforced steel is circulated inside the cement. The concrete mix is such that the effects of weathering due to environmental conditions are controlled.
The main aim was to create a fluid structure, to achieve the fluidity and dynamicity of form, metal sheets were used to cover the building. The sheets were marked with vertical grooves along the curves and reflected light from the surface in all angles depending on the time of the day. The form has been strategically manipulated to add resistance to the jumper’s movement. There are parapets provided on the sides of the ramp to protect from the gushes of the wind. The structure is relatively flexible. The end of the ramp is made of reinforced concrete and buttressed stirrups made the margins of the end of the ramp designed to reduce lateral loads.
The world’s best ski jumpers can jump up to 140 meters from the 48-meter-high tower. The stadium capacity is around 28,000 people and it also features 13 information panels depicting the history and development of ski jumping.
The monumental presence of the ski jump in the Bergisel mountains is an interactive viewpoint for the users. It is lit up at night, drawing attention towards itself. The café and tracks of the ramp are lit by strips of lights. The interiors of the café change color throughout the night. Five years later, Hungeburgbahn funicular was complete with stations and glass cabins.