Sitting Pretty Austrian Bus Stops Get High-Design Makeover

A tiny Austrian village has put itself on the design map by commissioning international architects to create local bus stops. The sophisticated structures are proving popular with locals.

It's an unlikely location for experimental architecture, but the focus of the project is even unlikelier. The tiny Austrian village of Krumbach has commissioned international architecture firms to build avant-garde bus stops.

The first of seven bus stop shelters has already been built in the hamlet of just 1,000 residents, where busses pass by daily until midnight.

The "Bus:Stop" project  was conceived by Krumbach's cultural association, which hired prominent Austrian architect Dietmar Steiner to act as curator. Though he counts major architects from around the world among his contacts, he chose to maintain a boutique feel: "No starchitects, just small offices with sculptural interest."

And, instead of monetary compensation, the architects are to receive a week's vacation in the area located in the western state of Vorarlberg instead. Volunteers are running the project, which is mostly privately funded, and local handworkers and residents are also providing work and materials for free.

Steiner invited seven international architecture  firms from Chile, Belgium, Norway, Russia, China, Spain and Japan to take part. "It was a miracle," he said. "Within four weeks all of the offices had agreed."

They traveled to Krumbach to survey their locations, and were all impressed by the "traditional craftsmanship, local materials like wood and the detail-rich building culture," he says.

Locals, in turn, are curious and taking a pragmatic approach to the idea, says the mayor. "Innovative ideas arise from the exchange and examination of other cultures," he says, adding that Krumbach was looking for "inspiration and new ways of seeing."

 -- with reporting by Ingeborg Wiensowski
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