Krumbach, in southern Lower Austria, is a sleepy market town with a modest population of around 1,000 residents. Extremely pretty, and known for its traditional inns, it is mainly visited by tourists due to the nearby ski and hiking resorts in the Bregenzerwald Mountains. In 2004, in a move to encourage more visitors to the town and the surrounding area of Bregenzerwald, the town’s residents collaborated with world-renowned architects to create what are potentially the most unusual bus stops in the world. As well as being a project designed to draw more attention to the town, the bus stops also sparked discussion about local craftsmanship and the importance of using materials – mainly wood, glass and metal – sourced from the local area.
There were seven architecture firms, from seven different countries, involved in the project – Russia, Spain, Belgium, Norway, Japan, China and Chile, all of whom took a different approach to their designs. Instead of monetary exchange, it was agreed that in return for their work, the architects would receive a holiday in the area. Spanish firm Ensamble used untreated oak planks, stacking them up in a design that appears organic and in keeping with the natural surroundings. The firm explained that it was important to them that the wood remained untreated, as ‘their smell and the process of ageing makes the place somewhere special’.
Inspired by the jagged mountainous surroundings of the area, Flemish architects Architecten de Vylder Vinck Taillieu created their design in a sharp triangular shape, crafting the structure out of glass that was sourced from the Bregenzerwald area.
One of the most striking designs comes from a Japanese firm, whose design is made up of white steel rods that blend in with the natural surroundings, giving the impression of a dense forest. ‘Our intention is to design a bus stop where people can meet, enjoy the views, and that, furthermore, functions as a landmark in Krumbach,‘ Sou Fujimoto explained.
Chilean architectural firm Smiljan Radic chose a design that treads a fine line between art and design, by erecting a clear glass pavilion with a coffered ceiling, made using black concrete. In the centre of the glass box sits two rural-style chairs in a nod to the local craftsmanship.
Chinese architects Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu chose to focus on the accessibility to the surrounding natural world, with unobscured views on all sides.
When Russian architect Alexander Brodsky designed his structure, he was under the pressure of making something that was pleasing to the local residents, as a community of family homes was nearby his designated site. He decided upon a simple yet elegant wooden design, which is elevated and open on all sides.
Hiking between each bus stop is a great way to see these architectural landmarks. It also gives visitors the chance to explore and admire the local scenery, as well as taking pit stops at the traditional inns along the way. Alternatively, travelling by car or, of course, by bus (the yellow country buses) are two other suitable options.