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The Krumbach bus stops, Vorarlberg, Austria
The yellow country bus that runs through this region of rural Vorarlberg takes local residents between the quaint alpine communities.
It was never intended to bring people from all around the world to this small part of Austria – but that’s exactly what happens these days.
It all started when the bus shelters in the village of Krumbach needed to be replaced. In some places, this might have just happened without anyone noticing – but here, the bus stops are important.
The yellow country buses that run through the Bregenzerwald area of Vorarlberg is critical for the communities. For those who can’t drive, it connects them to the shops, to their friends, to their schools.
But just because something is a practical necessity, it doesn’t mean it can’t also be visually-appearing. And so that’s why the locals decided they wanted to use the opportunity of replacements to do something special.
Krumbach only has about 1000 residents but they have a long history of quality craftsmanship. For generations, there has been a culture of building here and so the village decided they could make something great out of their new bus shelters.
But there was an idea to take it even further.
The story of Krumbach’s bus shelters
The residents of Krumbach decided they wanted an international influence as well so they reached out to seven different architects from around the the world.
Each of these architects (or architectural firms, in some cases) had some notoriety in the industry but were not ‘superstars’. That was intentional – the idea was to find rising talent who would be interested in a quirky challenge.
Krumbach asked each of them whether they would like to design a bus shelter for their village. Every single one of them accepted the offer.
It’s particularly impressive when you consider that they were asked to work for free. Their payment was simply a trip for two to Krumbach to see the site and then have a week’s holiday.
Once these international architects submitted their designs, a local architect was assigned to each bus stop and they oversaw the construction. Each of them also worked for free, as did the craftspeople. Sponsors were found for the materials.
It means that the final result – these seven special and unique bus stops – are intrinsically part of the village of Krumbach. Every part of them, from the idea’s conception to the final construction, was because of the residents here.
The yellow bus comes through Krumbach about every 30 or 60 minutes in each direction. It’s not always full and there was some concern that unprofitable routes in rural areas could be cut.
But it’s hard to see how that could happen to this one. Not these days. It’s too important.
Not just for the Krumbach residents, who use it to get around, but for the whole Bregenzerwald region that benefits from the tourist attraction the Krumbach bus stops have become.
Where are the Krumbach bus stops?
When you’re in the region, I would recommend you take some time to have a look at the bus shelters around Krumbach.
If you’ve got a car, you can easily drive between each of them. Or you can obviously catch the bus (it is free if you have the Bregenzerwald Guest-Card, which is the easiest and best value option).
A few of the stops are close enough to walk between and I’ve marked them all on a map here so you can see for yourself.
Let me also take this opportunity to tell you a bit more about what you’ll see at each of the seven bus stops in Krumbach.
Smiljan Radic, Chile
The design of this bus stop takes its inspiration from the living room of a traditional Bregenzerwald house. But it’s interesting to see a space that is usually so intimate out in the open and exposed with glass walls.
The architect has taken local handicraft ideas to make the rural wooden chairs that are provided as seating, and the coffered ceiling is a nod to the regional style.
On top of the bus stop, a birdhouse creates another connection with the nature, reminding us that this room has been disengaged from its usual place inside a house and juxtaposed against the landscape.
Ensamble Studio, Spain
With so many trees in the forests of the Bregenzerwald, it’s no surprise that wood is the major material for most construction. When the wood is being prepared, one of the important steps is to stack the untreated planks for them to dry. That’s what this bus stop tries to replicate.
The rough planks of oak have been arranged so that they provide protection for passengers but also leave the space with an open feel. Significantly, the oak planks are still not treated so they have a smell of wood and they will age naturally as the years go on.
DVVT Architects, Belgium
The design for this bus stop by Belgian architects was inspired by a road trip they took home from Italy that passed through Krumbach. It was the shape of the mountains in particular that gave them the idea.
But they were also interested in the work of the American artist Sol Lewitt, who focused on minimalistic styles and simple shapes.
When the two inspirations of the Alps and the art were combined, they arrived at the vision for this bus stop, which seems as though triangular surfaces are folded against each other.
The locals have given it their own nickname, though. They call it ‘The Chapel’.
Amateur Architecture Studio, China
While most of the architects in the project have thought about how the bus stop will look from the outside, the designers of this one thought about how the landscapes will look from the inside.
The location of this bus stop – with unobstructed views in every direction – is what inspired them. And so the two sides are built with wooden slats that allow you to look out.
But, most importantly, the window in the rear wall becomes a focus because of the conical shape of the interior. This creates a special visual axis to the mountains.
Rintala Eggertsson Architects, Norway
The architects of this bus stop are very aware of its surroundings. In fact, they asked to be able to build it in this exact location because they wanted it to be right next to a tennis court.
The reason for that is so they could give the bus stop two purposes. On the lower level, it is a place for people to wait for their ride. On the upper level, facing towards the tennis court, it is a spectator stand.
When it comes to the style, the bus stop reflects traditional design. It is built with wood and covered in shingles. Although the idea is innovative, it doesn’t look out of place.
Alexander Brodsky, Russia
The design of this bus stop was restricted somewhat because of the small area it had to be built on. To still make it striking, the architect decided to go up and create two levels.
The top level isn’t accessible to humans and is supposed to be for the birds, the windows intentionally left open for them.
On the ground floor, all four sides appear open, although there is glazing across three of them to keep out the elements. But with a table and a bench, the aim is to foster a relaxed atmosphere for waiting.
On first glance, the design seems quite simple but a lot of thought has gone into making everything precise and fundamentally balanced.
Sou Fujimoto, Japan
This is the most striking of the bus stops and, as you can see, the least traditional of them all. The thin steel rods are supposed to evoke a feeling of a forest, with no obvious pattern to the way they are arrange.
A staircase winds through the middle and you can climb up it to get a view across the landscape. It means that you can feel in one moment as though you are surrounded by nature and then, the next, as if you are floating above it.
Interestingly, there’s no real shelter from the weather at this bus stop – which you would think is the main reason for having a structure. It makes it the least practical of the seven… but still my favourite.
What does that say about the project?