Competition for a teaching and office building, University of Innsbruck

Zeitbogen (Time Arch) is the title of the project with which Peter Sandbichler won BIG’s Kunst & Bau (Art & Architecture) competition for the University of Innsbruck’s teaching and office building on 13 December 2019.

The judges explained their decision as follows:
“Peter Sandbichler’s sculptural intervention for the central entrance portal of the university building explores the relationship between seeing and perceiving as the foundation of scientific thinking. He has developed a three-dimensional ornament made up of basic elements for the arch’s surface area of approximately 120m². These elements are repeated over and over, with a modification of a few of their parameters in each repetition, so that the eye can perceive the gradual change. In this way, Sandbichler references the theory by physicist Douglas R. Hofstadter; in 1985 Hofstadter demonstrated that the gradual transformation of a pattern creates a temporal progression.
The adornment’s basic shapes are pyramids with diamond-shaped bases that unfold along the arch like a mountain range. While the width of the pyramid remains constant, the height and length change successively and blend into the arch. The adornment starts out quite flat at the edges near the ground and increases in diameter towards the curve of the arch. Hyperbolic sequences are created along the arch’s curve.
Peter Sandbichler has chosen the central entrance to the university building for his intervention. With a minimalist yet powerful sculptural gesture, the sculptor brings together humanities and natural sciences in a sophisticated way, thus crafting an abstract metaphor for access to education and knowledge as well as for the complexity of the sciences. At the same time, he creates a physically explorable, atmospheric space. A result of the fusion of mathematics, art, technology and philosophy, the adornment becomes part of the building’s design and holistically designates the university as a place that unites research and teaching.”

Winner: Zeitbogen (Time Arch)

The sculptural intervention for the main entrance develops an adornment based on Douglas R. Hofstadter’s Parquet Deformation. By overlapping and rotating circles, Sandbichler creates a pattern of pyramids with a diamond-shaped base in the cut surface of the arch.  These unfold along the arch like a mountain range, with the segments starting out shallow near the ground and getting deeper towards the centre of the arch. The three-dimensional adornment transforms the functional entranceway into a portal with a strong spatial and atmospheric impact on both the inside and outside areas of the building.


What we know about the art of antiquity is largely based on multiple transfers through copies of copies. For this project, a number of works will be selected from Innsbruck’s collection of plaster casts of ancient statues. Replicas will be arranged in the form of a stele that widens towards the top in the building’s atrium. As a visual vertical reference axis with narrative elements, the piece also aims to provide a clear contrast to the strictly formal architecture of the building.

Halbe Welt (Half the World)

Comprehending the world in its entirety is an age-old human dream – especially in a university environment. And yet study and science, especially in the context of the privileged position of a European institution, is only “half the world”. Andreas Fogarasi proposes the installation of an architectural sculpture on the campus lawn that follows the example of classical panoramic displays. A spiral staircase leads to a circular platform, which offers a view, not of a painting, but of the surroundings.

Firmament des universellen Wissens (Firmament of Universal Knowledge)

Claudia Larcher will realise a fresco on the vaulted ceiling above the main entrance. It depicts the dome of the sky with roughly 60 golden yellow stars on an ultramarine blue background. The university’s seal at its centre serves as a unifying element, while the surrounding stars are symbols, including atoms, bacteria, ice crystals, emojis, a black hole, a meteorite and a quasiparticle. These symbols represent the places and empirical research areas of the University of Innsbruck. One of the “stars” is a QR code that links to a website where all the symbols are explained in a kind of encyclopaedia.

Institut für europäische Minderheitssprachen (Institute for European Minority Languages)

The artists propose to establish a new institute at the University of Innsbruck. The underlying reason for this is the fact that not a single university has a department for European minority languages as yet. Five languages will be selected to represent the institute. Their geographical borderlines will be derived from language maps (ignoring the true scale ratios), realised in the form of five sculptures and installed on the roof of the bicycle shelter. They will be complemented by a nameplate for the department located by the outside staircase and listing 56 minority languages.