When Ischgl is full of hustle and bustle, there’s a place where Ischgl locals go to meet each other. It’s new, discreet and very special. What’s this lovely surprise all about?

They were sceptical. When the architects Barbara Poberschnigg and Michael Fuchs won the tender for a new cultural centre in Ischgl, they asked themselves who they could turn to for help. They could clearly see the image of a place where you go to just to relax. The numbers were clear, too: in the high season, locals are outnumbered ten to one by visitors, and Ischgl feels as if it is in foreign hands. “But,” say the architects, “looking behind the scenes, an exceptional community spirit was soon apparent.

The St. Nikolaus Cultural Centre was built in 2013, as Ischgl needed a place for its clubs, associations and social scene, which is lively even by Tyrolean standards. The Ischgl band, for example, consists of almost one hundred active members. A separate youth brass orchestra is hot on its heels. The state music school has a very active membership, the singers’ group rehearse just as regularly as the school choir. In total there are more than forty clubs and associations in the town who were missing just one thing for many years: a suitable place to meet.

This was the main reason behind the project: to provide Ischgl’s social life, which until then had been scattered and separate, with a new centre. A competition was organized, which Poberschnigg and Fuchs won with their exceptional project. A new building was constructed directly next to the parish church, a large part of which was underground and connected via the old rectory to the new rehearsal space for music and the multifunctional clubhouse.

Speaking with people from Ischgl, away from the “business” side of things, you realize that socially, the Paznaun village is still there, hidden behind the hotel town. “It’s just that Hans and Pepi and Loisa aren’t part of the farming community any more, now they have hotels,” say the architects. The need for a social life, for gossip and chat, for communal leisure activities, has remained exactly the same.

Municipal secretary Christian Schmid agrees, too. He leads tours through the cultural centre on request – with great competence and the well-deserved pride of a regular user (he himself is a member of the brass band and coordinates the use of the many rooms in the new building and the carefully-renovated rectory). The centre was, he says, absolutely necessary. That it turned into “something so beautiful” pleases him not just personally but also in his capacity as a municipal official. The parish of Ischgl spent over seven million euro on the cultural centre.

Christian Schmid shows the musical rehearsal space with its elaborate acoustics, the recreation room for all the clubs, the local historian’s study, the vicar room, the choir practice room, the rooms for the music schools and singers, the rooms where pensioners meet to play cards or, if they prefer, chess, too, the library, the range of old and new books. The St Nikolaus cultural centre has won many awards: Barbara Poberschnigg and Michael Fuchs won the “National Prize for Architecture” for their “pretty extreme building.” The community of Ischgl was awarded the “Building Developers Prize”, in recognition of the bold and proficient cooperation between the architects and craftsmen.

For the architects, however, almost more important than the high-level awards is the “camaraderie room”, as they call the recreation room, which has turned into the “town living room” in a very short space of time, and which is booked out almost every evening: “It is the added value of architecture, when a place is appreciated or even loved.”