Austria. Alpbach in Tyrol: Beauty meets sustainability


Alfons Moser was known as a successful businessman and – from 1945 to 1979 – as the dedicated mayor of Alpbach, a Tyrolean village nestled in a dulcet valley cutting through the Kitzbueheler Alps. He had a vision worldly enough to become reality: according to a law passed in 1953 and prevailing since, all newly built houses had to comply with the existing traditional architecture in local alpine style. Basta!

Traditional architecture preserved by law.

Traditional architecture preserved by law.

Masonry was approved for basements and ground floors only, while the first and subsequent storeys had to be fashioned of timber… although a mild compromise here and there may have been inevitable to maintain a peaceful co-existance. Also typical are the picturesque balcony balustrades, heavy with colourful geraniums, pansies or lobelia in summer and bulging with soft pillows of glittering snow in the wintertime. No wonder Alpbach has been certified Austria’s ‘Most beautiful village’ and even Europe’s ‘Most beautiful floral village’. Protection of nature and the environment in all facets plays an integral part for everyone who lives and works here, a philosophy that is readily adopted by leisure tourists and business folks alike. Making Alpbach a village that practices what it preaches.

Talking about the environment…

How would a veritable congress centre fit into this rigid concept? There are exceptions to rules, as one knows, and there is ambiguity to clauses. Although here a perfect compromise had been found for the Congress Centrum Alpbach (CCA), which has indeed become a masterpiece of design, functionality and high-quality conference technology. In order to comply with the legal specifications, it had courageously been embedded in a mountain side and equipped with a refined, spiralling cone in the centre to provide the venue with ample daylight. From the outside and at foot level, the CCA is hard to detect – and even from a bird’s eye view it is barely visible. Due to its ‘sunken’ location in the isolating properties of soil, it also boasts high energy efficiency, a priceless asset in today’s increasing demand for “green“ venues. Meanwhile the centre runs on an environmentally friendly, economical pellet heating.

The CCA!

The CCA!

Supplies and disposal have to be biodegradable, recyclable and ecologically tolerant. ‘Green IT’ was acquired, water usage is constantly evaluated and saving measures are implemented accordingly. Predominantly local and seasonal produce is used for catering and congress participants walk through the village instead of using cars. Moreover they are encouraged to measure their Co2 footprint via the atmosfair carbon emissions calculator.

The CCA has been handling environmental issues responsibly long before it became fashionable and has succeeded in attracting an international meeting clientele. Today it is holder of the Green Globe Certificate and of the Austrian Ecolabel.

Why would a small village need a congress centre in the first place?

Since 1945, philosophers, academics and businessmen have been gathering every August to attend the European Forum Alpbach EFA ( – which follows varying mottos. In the beginning, only a couple of professors and students discussed a number of topics, then in a traditional farmhouse.

As part of the Green Meeting project initiated by CCA, a cooperation with the EFA was planned right from the beginning due to the forum’s long-standing relations with the village of 2,600, where intellectuals from all over the world convened for an interdisciplinary exchange of ideas – earning Alpbach the title of “Village of Thinkers”. In 2013, over 4,300 EFA participants were welcomed at the CCA.

Business chores accomplished? There is hiking, nordic walking, inline skating, mountain biking, trekking, rafting, fishing, canyoning, horseback riding, archery, hang-gliding, hunting, climbing, skiing – alpine and cross-country, snow tours, tobogganing or curling…

How to get there:
Alpbach is a hidden gem, the closest city being Kufstein. The next airports are at Innsbruck (57 km), Munich (160 km) and Salzburg (150 km).

Photos provided by CCA