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graz, austria
being capital of a major austrian province since the medieval age graz (population 250.000) has a wealth of old architecture which fortunately has been preserved even through world war 2 and postwar city planning. the inner city is world cultural heritage since 1999. for 2003 graz was the european union's official 'cultural capital of europe'. this title, which is being awarded annually, means a bit of funding from the eu but its main goal is to trigger projects that might improve the cultural infrastructure of a city. also, it usually has a positive impact on tourism. by the end of the 1990's the city of graz had finally made the decision to build a new museum for contemporary art. attempts have been made before (two competitions were held in 1988 and 1998) but however, none of the winning projects ever went beyond competition stage. a team led by peter cook and colin fournier (both are teaching at the bartlett architecture school in london) won the third competition in 2000.

the museum site is embedded in the historic cityscape of graz. the new building just fills up an existing void and connects to an old department store that will also be part of the museum complex.
the key feature of the scheme is an organic "monostructure" that encloses the exhibition spaces and other facilities. a multitude of organic-looking funnels (or "nozzles") on the roof give it a characteristic outline - it works perfectly as an icon. it also is an example for contemporary "blob" architecture, amongst other influences. the structure was intended to be made out of some kind of semi-transparent blue space-age material never to be heard of before. construction started in november 2001 and was finished by the end of 2003. costs were in the range of 40 m. the design team was a partnership of three offices: spacelab (peter cook and colin fournier's office), architektur consult (a local architect that is specialized in large projects) and the structural engineering firm bollinger + grohmann. the core design team was about 8 to 15 persons, i think about 100 professionals from different companies are involved. (follow this link for complete credits)

i joined the team of peter and colin in april 2001 just after the beginning of the hot phase of the planning process. we worked under great pressure from the beginning since the city wanted to open the building in 2003, being the highlight of the year's 'cultural capital of europe' program.