"sb" 4/2013: Let the sun shine in - “Vertikale” in Brixen

The new “Vertikale” climbing hall in Brixen was built in the summer of 2010 in a prominent urban location between an equally new urban space and the municipal park. The building’s main access is via an almost ten metre wide flight of white steps on the west side, with visitors entering the interior via an unprepossessing door at one end, separated from the action in the 16 metre high hall solely by a glass wall.

From the entrance, a staircase leads down into the basement, where the changing rooms, showers, building plant and a small office are located. The attraction down here, however, is the surrounding bouldering room with a surface area of over 250 m², which is naturally illuminated partly by rooflights and partly by windows and glazed doors.

The main hall with its three free-standing climbing towers and its exercising and training area also has generously glazed surfaces that admit plenty of sunlight.

Since most climbing halls are integrated in existing building envelopes of industrial sheds or even churches and are only illuminated via the roof, this new project offered the chance to apply more design to this type of structure. The architects Martin Mutschlechner and Wolfgang Meraner therefore asked: Should the climbing hall be identifiable as such from outside and, if so, how should a climbing hall look?

With its edge lengths of roughly 20 x 16 m and a visible height of 17 to 20 m, this climbing hall is roughly cubic. Its transparent façade design not only brings climbing (back) to nature, but also makes the action inside visible from outside. A climbing face on the east façade reinforces this effect. The multi-layer façade structure offers the interested viewer a multitude of different views.

In the design of the climbing hall, ecology was an important factor: an ingenious air conditioning strategy with a multi-layer façade, ventilation and heat storage with the aid of intermediate zones in the façade structure, and the creation of storage mass in the building. By exploiting solar energy, a façade envelope that can be modified to suit the season, and natural ventilation, mechanical cooling is not necessary. This saves money during construction and even more money during hall maintenance.

Barrier-free hall access and the way climbing is organised, finally, have made the hall adaptable and suitable for competitive and leisure climbers, and for training and competition.