Snøhetta x ZOA Studio presents the New Face of Bolzano
South Tyrol region is famous for its medieval castles such as Castel Roncolo, Castel d’Appiano or Schloss Tirol but it is soon a millennium since these emblematic buildings were built and it was time to add a new, modern architectural masterpiece, representing the 21st century.
The prestigious development, Viva Virgolo, with its location being at 450m above sea level won’t just be a fancy selfie spot from where you can take breathtaking snapshots of the city of Bolzano and the surrounding mountains. It will also create a new cultural hub with a restaurant, shops, cafés, two concert halls and most importantly, a new natural history museum which will be the resting place for the famous Ötzi, a Tyrolean Iceman who lived in the area 5300 years ago and is known for having been naturally mummified under the ice for thousands of years.
The international design competition sparked interest all over the world from the most well-recognized architectural design firms and it was truly exciting to see how these concepts were competing against each other until one came out on top and was selected out to be the most suitable for Bolzano’s beloved locals. After this initial victory came the tedious and lengthy journey with its rises and falls during which we, hand in hand with Snøhetta were holding up the hope that this project could start to materialize at last.
New possibilities for exploration
The amazing Virgolo/Virgl mountain has been inaccessible for almost forty years, following the close of the city’s historic funicular in 1976, but it will all change as in the summer of 2026 a new cable car system will allow visitors to experience the beauty of the landscape and reach the inviting “Mountain Square” on the top with a 72-second ride.
Standing up there will leave no doubt that the mountainous Trentino-Alto Adige region bordering Austria and Switzerland features Italy’s most stunning topography.
The winning design proposal submitted by our long-term partner Snøhetta will serve as a wildland-urban interface strongly in sync with nature but also include a café, meeting rooms and provide new possibilities for exploration, recreation and relaxation for not just local inhabitants.
Through all your senses
The idea of exploration created a solid base to our animation concept and almost twenty further renderings that sharply focus on the public spaces and basic shapes of the structure to highlight the balance between the delicate nature and newly built elements.
We experience the world with all our five senses, therefore we wanted to offer the viewers a complete guide to what the finished development will offer by highlighting aspects of the architecture, culture, music and gastronomy of the site.
By showing the combination of these sceneries and the senses related to these, the audience will be well‐informed about the concept of Viva Virgolo and have a full understanding of the main values and atmosphere of this truly amazing development.
Communicating the idea of five senses through a true-to-life animation was central to the presentations and public engagement.
The locals, most of whom have lived in Bolzano for decades and know the area like the back of their hand, weren’t pleased about the idea, but the detailed plan and our real-life imagery speak for themselves and represent the project in a way that helps people realize the value of the development and how it changes the city in a positive direction.
The most challenging part was to show the environment–mountains, valleys, city–as close to reality as possible, which would have been impossible without Snøhetta’s team generously providing us with airshots, drone footage and eye-level photos so we can deliver the images and animation to the level that we like to.
This resulted in highly photorealistic images with matte-painting to the best of our artists’ abilities and an architectural animation in which the structure is fitted as seamlessly in the environment as an architectural render can do.
In a sense, our job was to imagine the real mountainous environment and present a new vision of Bolzano’s future with both 3D shots and video sequences. The images were combined with a movie that fantasizes about what Viva Virgolo will look like during a hot summer when it first opens its doors.
We believe that as far as the message is clear and inspirational, this type of imagery–an architectural style movie–tends to be more effective and widely appealing; and especially here it provides a more realistic first-hand experience that really helps to win hearts and supporters for the project in Bolzano.