The Capella Granata was only completed in the autumn of 2013 and is an architectural treasure in the Zillertal mountains. It was designed by the Swiss star architect Mario Botta and consists of a wooden frame structure on which weathering steel sheets are attached to the outside. These form the shape of a mineral that is particularly common in Zillertal, a garnet. The chapel is clad with local larch wood inside. Special light effects are created by the dome and two windows in the shape of a cross in the façade. Zillertal garnet inlays can also be found in the walnut altar that was designed by the artist Markus Thurner from Maurach am Achensee. The chapel is dedicated to the blessed Engelbert Kolland. You can reach the Capella Granata by the Finkenberg Almbahn lift. It‘s just a fiveminute walk up to the chapel from the Penkenjoch top station. However, there is also a pleasant mountain bike ride that leads right past the chapel. Most of the difference in altitude is covered by taking the Penkenbahn lift and then it is a comfortable half-hour bike ride on a simple gravel path on the plateau.
An interview with the architect of the chapel: Mario Botta
Personal details: Mario Botta was born in Ticino (CH) on 1st April 1943. He started his apprenticeship as a draughtsman in Lugano at the age of 15. After attending the Liceo Artistico in Milan he started his architecture studies in Venice, which he completed in 1969. He founded his own architecture firm in Lugano in the same year. Botta is the most important representative of the famous “Ticino school”. He mainly designs buildings in his home country and in neighbouring Northern Italy. However, there are also buildings in the USA, China and South Korea in the meantime.
A gemstone in the Zillertal mountains Going by the size of his office Mario Botta is not that big but going by the importance of his buildings he is one of the greats among the architects of this world. The first building that the 70-year old has built in Austria has been standing on the Penken since last summer: the Capella Granata. We spoke to the star architect. The chapel has the special shape of a Zillertal mineral, the garnet.
Why did you choose steel and wood as the building materials?
The idea was to base the shape on that of the natural garnet and to make it the theme of this chapel. This was realised using the materials steel and wood. The strict mathematically reproducible geometry of this structure is supposed to represent the strict contrast between the rationality of people and free organic nature. Such a pure shape, this kind of gemstone at the top of a mountain, is also an opportunity to illustrate the connection between heaven and earth. The structure is connected to the earth‘s crust by gravity but it is surrounded by the endlessness of the universe and the beautiful nature of the Zillertal.
Was it something extraordinary for you to build at this altitude and in this setting?
Seen purely technically it was all about building this geometrical structure out of twelve equal-sized panels at this altitude. However, we were also thinking about a light wood construction inside as a contrast to the hard Corten steel which is harsh and wind and rain repellent. A soft core with a hard shell you might say. Like a nut. It was about playing with these two emotions. Seemingly impenetrable from the outside. But once you are inside you discover a sweet, soft fruit.
What else could you imagine building in Zillertal?
I really like the valley as the elements of nature, the mountains, are very present. And these mountains actually already form a space, a building, built by nature. I find an incredible strength here. I really value that. I don‘t have any specific ideas for a building as the architect does not choose the theme. The architect is an instrument of society and does what society desires. It may be a chapel or a hotel. However, it was a really wonderful experience and a challenge to work here.
Source: Zillertal Magazin, Summer 2014