A sea of blossoms

The recently reopened Vorarlberg Museum in Bregenz, Austria, is a real eye-catcher with its unique concrete surface design. Inside the building one can find testimonies of local art and culture from the past and present. In order to make the building’s purpose outwardly visible, the artist Manfred Alois Mayr managed to let the concrete surface literately “burst into bloom”. He found his inspiration in an everyday object.

Since the Begrenz Landesmuseum was extended and the new building was introduced in the summer of 2013, walkers cannot believe what they are seeing. The complex, located in the city center of Begrenz, has been extended with a building as well as a five-story structure. Various designs in the surface of the pattern illustrate the low individual construction stages. What unites all of them as a whole creation is the texture’s coloring, which reminds the visitor of champagne chalk.

Both architects agreed on the South Tyrolean artist Manfred Alois Mayr, with whom they developed out a very particular concrete relief for the main surface of the new complex.

The exhibits of the Vorarlberger Landesmuseum, comprising a vast variety of ancient vessels, served Mayr as inspiration for his idea. The chalices and bowls inspired him to use a modern everyday container for his art-in-architecture – the PET bottle. He started to experiment with plastic bottles and when taking an impression of the bottle’s base, he realized that it was reminiscent of a flower’s blossom. Eventually, images of  thirteen different bottle bases are found on the concrete surface. It was Mayr’s desire to scatter the different motifs across the concrete surface without letting the arrangement appear unplanned. He turned to Urs B. Roth for help, an architect, mathematician and artist himself. He developed a mathematical method for the dispersion of the pattern assigning each blossom a specific place on the concrete surface based on a grid.

Subsequently, the scatter pattern contrived by Roth had to be merged with Mayrs motifs to prepare a formwork. The PET bottles selected by the artist were sent to RECKLI in Herne. Since the blossoms protruded more than 45 millimeters from the concrete surface, the negatives for the elastic formliners could not be milled as usual into MDF panels by the use of a CNC milling machine. Thus, Volker Urmoneit, head of the Reckli model-making department, took matters into his own hands and manufactured the mouldings himself. The positives he produced were then mounted onto the corresponding MDF panels. “During this project, our high-precision CNC milling machine had only the task of drilling the holes for the manual mounting of the plastic flowers at their exact places”, says Urmoneit.

Then, the individual master-moulds, in which the elastomeric formliners were subsequently cast , were produced. For financial reasons, it was planned to use only three compatibly matching  main formliners for each floor. Additional formliners for the corners and reveals were required.

Object Details

Cukrowicz Nachbaur &Architekten ZT GmbH Bregenz

Facade Construction
Manfred Alois Mayr Bozen
Landesmuseum Bregenz & Schertler-Alge GmbH Lauterach
Hilti & Jehle GmbH Feldkirch
Rhomberg Bau GmbH Bregenz
Jäger Bau GmbH Schruns

Kunst am Bau
Manfred Alois Mayr Bozen


Adolf Bereuter for Cukrowicz Nachbaur Architekten & BetonBild

The formliners were produced in Herne by Reckli and  a 3 m x 3 m showroom was built in Bregenz. “We used the showroom for making sample castings to find the right concrete mix for an ideal optical result”, architect Abbrederis explains. “The biggest challenge was to get all the air out of the freshly poured concrete.”. This was critical since the concrete surface was to be cast in-situ. To emphasize the extraordinary pattern, a jointless concrete surface was requested by the clients, architects and artists. If the different parts would have been poured horizontally, connection joints would have developed. Even though the upright processing of in-situ concrete guarantees a flawless optical result, it also presented the team with a different challenge, with respect to the formliner, it was of utmost importance that the edge between the blossom and the surface was shaped perfectly. “It was very impressive how precise and accurate RECKLI mastered this challenge.” acknowledges Abbrederis.

After lengthy preparation involving numerous sample castings, the ideal concrete mix was finally found: a viscous, self-compacting concrete. The 2 m x 6 m formliners were shuttered on site. Subsequently the enlisted contractor poured the 17 cm thick concrete panel.

Piece by piece, a sea of 16.656 concrete blossoms formed on an area of 1300 square meters. The ornate concrete surface adorning the Bregenzer Landesmuseum bridges the gap between roman clay bowls and the plastic consumer products of modern times. In July 2014, the project was awarded with the “golden best architects award”.