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The elegance of wood

What may be fine stones and hand-made tiles in building cultures of other countries is wood in Vorarlberg. In the Bregenzerwald region, the knowledge about this age-old building material is preserved and applied with a contemporary twist.

Bregenzerwald Architecture © Österreich Werbung/Wiesenhofer

Bregenzerwald

Bregenzerwald on the map

Making a feature of its intrinsic beauty is just one reason why so many craftsmen, master builders and architects in Vorarlberg have devoted themselves to this special material. What fascinates everyone is that wood from the region is the answer to so many pressing questions in our lives – from sustainable protection of nature to a style of living to delight the senses: wood eases the burden on our environment, and decelerates time. It creates a healthy atmosphere in a room, equalising humidity and not becoming electrostatically charged. It re-grows, can be obtained easily and disposed of without residual waste, and saves energy.

The fact that wood is durable and still looks great even after centuries has much to do with the care with which it is selected, felled, dried and worked. Thus, roofing tiles are made from water-repellent larch. The weather side of a building is clad in pine and the side facing the sun in spruce, Swiss pine, on the other hand, is just right for terrace floors. When felling the wood moon phases play an equally important role as the season. It may sound like a country saying, but it is wisdom confirmed empirically over centuries and now also backed up by laboratory tests.

Take a ‘culture of wood’ walk in Hittisau, and you can track the roots of the craftsman's skill in handling this forward-looking material with its promise of a better world: the arc spans from a visit to a Bregenzerwald farmhouse to crossing the oldest covered wooden bridge in Vorarlberg, before leading on to a modernised inn and the newly-built ‘Feuerwehr- und Kulturhaus’, which houses both the fire station and the Hittisau Museum of Women. Wood plays the main role in all these constructions: it is sleek, elegant, spectacular - and it smells great!

In the wood workshop of Markus Faißt furniture for the good life is built with immense skill, love, commitment and serious application. His work can be found all over the world, from Zurich to Athens, from Washington to Vienna. Dining, living, working, sleeping – these are the areas he focuses on; for instance, he has designed a bed that entirely does without metal and glue. The individual parts are connected using dovetail joints, a carpentry technique that is as simple as it is sophisticated.

The Werkraum Bregenzerwald has established itself in Andelsbuch as a competence centre for wood. New furniture and objects in wood are exhibited at the werkraum depot in Schwarzenberg. One particularly fascinating piece is a dowelled fountain in pine wood: the wooden dowels swell up when coming in contact with water and the fountain – that can simultaneously be a bathing tub – becomes sealed. A further delight are wooden shoes that were traditionally worn for farm work, but are these days, with their long-hair goatskin applied as the leather upper, a rather exhilarating celebration of fashion.


USEFUL LINKS:

EXPERIENCE

'Culture of wood' walk taking in the cultural and natural landscape of Vorarlberg, looking at architecture in the Bregenzerwald.
www.kulturinbewegung.at

Architecture guided tours
in Vorarlberg
www.v-a-i.at

Sleeping in/Hiring wood houses
www.holzhus.at


SHOPPING

Devich wooden shoes
The last wooden shoe manufacturer in Austria is based in Bezau. In his small factory, Anton Devich manufactures clogs, sandals and recently also boots with a wooden sole.
www.holzschuhe.at

Markus Faißt Wood Workshop
www.holz-werkstatt.com

Dietmar Berchtold – Building in Wood
www.derholzbauer.com

Quality natural wood furniture
www.duer-naturholzmoebel.at

Hermann Kaufmann
Architect, and one of the pioneers of modern wood construction in Europe.
www.hermann-kaufmann.at

A skyscraper in wood
www.cree.at

Anton Bereuter – Craftsmanship in Wood
www.handwerkholz.at


GENERAL

Hittisau District Council
www.hittisau.at

Hittisau Museum of Women
www.frauenmuseum.at

Werkraum Bregenzerwald
www.werkraum.at

Vorarlberg Forestry Association
www.waldverband.at

Schwarzenberg District Council
www.schwarzenberg.at

Schwarzenberg ‘Schubertiade’
For over 25 years, the ‘Schubertiade’ has achieved the seemingly impossible: remaining an intimate event, whilst simultaneously being the world’s most important Schubert festival.
Dates: 16.-25.6. and 27.8.-9.9. 2012
www.schubertiade.com