The renowned mountaineer Reinhold Messner—a prolific adventurer famous for making the first climb up Mt. Everest without the aid of an oxygen tank–has spent the last decade building a series of museums dedicated to mountain culture across the Italian Alps. For his sixth and final installment, Messner tapped Zaha Hadid to build a massive concrete structure partially submerged within the summit of Mount Kronplatz.
Open to the public for the first time in late July, the museum sits 7,000 feet above the sea level and is made of glass-reinforced fibre concrete, which is pale grey on the outside to mimic the outer surface of the mountain and a shade darker on the inside to match the tones of anthracite coal buried underground. Three “concrete canopies” emerge from the ground like giant shards of rock, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountain ranges to visitors inside.
“The idea [is] that visitors can descend into the mountain to explore its caverns and grottos, before emerging through the mountain wall on the other side, out onto the overhanging terrace with its spectacular, panoramic views,” Hadid said in a press statement.
It’s a project as bold and daring as its commissioner, yet Messner started his foray into museums on a much more modest scale. The Museum of Alpine Curiosities opened in 1993 near Mount Ortles in a small hut locals referred to as “the Fleapit.” For his second, Messner renovated a derelict castle that he originally bought to turn into a family home. In another, Messner commissioned architect Arnold Gapp to design a museum that was completely underground, with only a narrow strip of glass visible from the outside.
Built to house artifacts, images and tools from Messner’s life, the MMM Corones is not only one one of Messner’s more extreme museums, but also his last. “Every week someone rings me up wanting to open a new Messner museum, but I’m not interested,” Messner told the Financial Times last year. “This is my last one and I want to finish it, to give visitors somewhere that is quiet, tranquil, not aggressive, something that will promote calm and reflection.”