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In 2003 when Graz was chosen as the European Capital of Culture, the city inaugurated a very unusual art museum on the right bank of the Mur river: the Kunsthaus Graz. Although a sharp contrast to the surrounding historic monuments, the ultra-modern building has become a beloved addition to the traditional skyline of red roofs. The museum exhibits are fully dedicated to contemporary art.
The museum unites many art forms under one roof: from architecture and design to photography and new media. The museum doesn’t boast its own collection or any permanent exhibits, so each visit can be a whole new experience. Only one thing never changes: the intriguing building itself. The unusual exterior, with its eccentric curves and protrusions, stands out among the surrounding architecture. Locals often refer to the building as ‘the friendly alien’.
One of the most striking aspects of the building is the 900-square-metre BIX façade. The name is a combination of the words ‘big’ and ‘pixel’, a reference to the 930 circular lamps installed on the outside of the building. Centrally controlled by a computer, the lamps can create simple images and animations, like pixels on a computer screen. The effect is visible from afar.
The innovative building was designed by London architects Peter Cook and Colin Fournier. Its exterior resembles a blue blob. The unique exterior of this ‘alien creature’ is an example of the so-called Blob architecture – a style that has emerged thanks to new digital design techniques. Inside, the building has over 11,000 square metres of exhibit space, a café and a media lounge.
Graz is a real university town, with approximately 50,000 students among a total population of 300,000. The city’s young and dynamic vibe is one of the reasons why Graz was elected as the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2003. That same year, the Kunsthaus Graz opened its doors as part of the city’s comprehensive urban renewal projects in the surrounding district of Lend. This working class neighbourhood on the west bank of the Mur river never attracted much attention, but today it has been transformed into the city’s young creative district, packed with cafés, designer stores and hip restaurants.