Project Bus:Stop by Kultur Krumbach managed to lure international architects to the middle of nowhere in order to design a public commodity for nearly no pay. How, you may ask? Well, let us just say: Seven bus stops, seven architecture firms, and one sleepy village in Austria.
Krumbach is a small village of about 1000 inhabitants snuggly tucked away somewhere near the Bregenz forest. ‘Cosmopolitan’ is not really a word you hear a lot in this part of the world, rather you hear cows mooing, housewives gossiping and kids playing. To create a dialog between world architecture and the villagers Kultur Krumbach asked Dietmar Steiner, director of the Architekturzentrum Wien, to contact star architects for the re-design of Krumbach’s bus stops. Made curator of Bus:Stop, Dietmar Steiner instead invited small architecture firms with a special interest in sculptures from around the world. The firms heard the call, and, surprisingly, without further ado, gladly accepted the invitation. Not even the ‘commission’ could hold them back: simply a paid week of vacation in Krumbach’s beautiful countryside. Local collaborators made it possible.
Participating architects are Alexander Brodsky from Russia, Rintala Eggersson Architects from Norway, Architecten de Vylder Vinck Taillieu from Belgium, Ensamble Studio with Antón García-Abril and Débora Mesa from Spain, Smiljan Radic from Chile, Amateur Architecture Studio with Wang Shu and Ly Wenyu from China and Sou Fujimoto from Japan. Each of the architecture firms were trusted with the re-design of one bus shelter each. The designs vary as much as the architects’ origins. The Chinese, for instance, embrace Krumbach’s landscape, the Scandinavians are big fans of the local handicraft and the Japenese put aesthetics over utility. Whether the bus stops can still be considered as architecture or have already reached the level of art Dietmar Steiner can only determine by referring to Frank Gehry: “to be architecture it would need a toilet, and a bus stop doesn’t have one so it’s rather a sculpture”, making Bus:Stop more of an art project than a mere architectural order.
The first bus stop was just recently constructed by Chilean architect Smiljan Radic with the help of voluntary work from the villagers, advice from regional architects and equipment donations by local businesses. The other designs are supposed to be constructed by March 2014, at the same time of the opening of the eponymous exhibition. Project Bus:Stop represents a welcoming counter movement away from the glamor of airports, train stations or corporate buildings towards an architecture for everyday purpose constructions that are too often overlooked as they (falsely) appear bleak and miserable. Only few architects can included a bus stop in their portfolio, of which the number has just increased by seven counts.