Cannon Hall at the Graz Armory
Client: Universalmuseum Joanneum GmbH and the City of Graz
Location: Graz, Austria
“This intervention creates a great dialogue and a sense of respect and cohabitation between old and new. The fact that one can buy items there is secondary to the experiential beauty of the space.
It elevates retail to art.” -Jury
The Zeughaus, or Armory Museum, in Graz, Austria, was built in 1642 and is the most well-preserved original armory in the world. Containing about 32,000 arms and military equipment from the late 15th to the early 18th centuries, the museum holds items that remain stored and organized as they were more than 300 years ago.
In recent years, the Armory Museum acquired Graz Tourism as a commercial partner, and sought to make the most of the significant home that it has. A design competition was launched for the redesign of the Cannon Hall at the museum to become both a retail space and welcoming center for both entities, with seven European firms invited to submit design schemes, including Graft from Berlin, NL Architects from Amsterdam, and SUPERPOOL from Istanbul. The winner was a Graz-based firm, INNOCAD, which developed a plan that fully considered the local context that it knew well. INNOCAD led the project and collaborated as part of a design collective called 13&9, which includes other Graz–based designers of furniture, fashion, accessories, light, sound, and art concepts.
INNOCAD served two clients: the City of Graz for the tourism center, and the Austrian government for the museum component. Graz has been designated by UNESCO as a City of Design, thanks to its significant cultural heritage and creative scene. “It was very important for us, knowing Graz is a City of Design,” says Martin Lesjak, a partner in INNOCAD. “The space is like the business card of the city; it is very important for the city. And we were very glad to win against high-quality firms.”
Originally, Cannon Hall was exactly as its name implies: a room for storing cannons in medieval times. INNOCAD first removed whatever previous insertions were made to the space over time to clear the way for a new information center for Graz Tourism and as an entrance for the Armory Museum upstairs. The INNOCAD design encompasses a main room and two smaller rooms for display and school gatherings and workshops.
Inspiration came from the Murnockel, a round rock used to pave streets and build buildings in medieval times that remains a symbol of the Graz region. The rock inspiration manifested as round formations that define the interior of the Cannon Hall, and the designers affectionately call the interior “Rolling Stones.” Designed in three dimensions using Rhino 3D modeling software, and constructed of painted plywood cut in CNC machines, there are three large and two small round forms—or stones. The round-form installations serve as shelving, infrastructure, back office, and storage spaces. The largest—22 feet wide and 13 feet tall—is the retail component of the hall with shelves for display. Heating, air conditioning, and lighting are all integrated within the installations; LED lights are inserted within channels in the inch-thick shelves. Images in motion are projected onto the ceiling from eight laser light projectors. One of the projected images is simulating running water because water is important to the history of Graz.
The project was completed in an incredibly short time period—the competition was in June 2012, construction was finished in January 2013, and the space opened in March 2013. The Austrian government expects at least a half million visitors will come through Cannon Hall every year.
Besides winning an Interiors Award, the project is receiving accolades in Europe. In the Leading European Architects Forum (LEAF) Interior Design Awards, it won both the Public Building of the Year award and was recognized as the 2013 Overall Winner. This ingenious interior exemplifies the power of place, and design juries and the general public recognize that.