The village itself is made up of several parts which, once upon a time, self-confidently faced one another. The people here created a landscape typical of the Hinterwald. It goes back to the rural three-level farming system comprising valley, mountain pasture and alp. Utility spaces, shingles and lace curtains form a further important trio of design elements – in this case, outside of, on and in the Bregenzerwald farmhouses.
Umgang - Village Au
Au, a village in the flood plains next to the sometimes wild waters of the Bregenzerach, produced remarkable artists in the form of its baroque master builders. Their sacred buildings in the region between Lake Constance and Alsace are still greatly admired these days.
1. Haus E.
Scientific research suggests that the wood for the beams of this house grew around 800 years ago. Was the wood first used on this spot, or was it brought across the mountains by the settlers? This point is shrouded in mystery. In any case, the land on the edge of the Argenbach is an ancient settlement area. The problem of lighting the inside of the house arose during its thorough redevelopment. This was achieved by means of the skylights on the roof. They are arranged above the roof ridge. Further, the roof shingles were copiously covered all round with copper. This prevents both water and ice damage.
2. Haus M.
An old farmhouse with the typical design elements: a gently sloping roof with moderate roof overhang. Plus the grey-brown weathered shingle façade including decorative details such as the protruding shingles. Green shutters hang on the white-painted, square windows. Windows were once much smaller – it was only during the 19th century that they reached their current size. The powerful frame, somewhat wider than the wall, has a strong mullion – the crossbar. There is one sliding window in the middle of the casements which comprise six glass panes each.
3. Löwen mountain distillery
It was fashionable at the beginning of the 20th century to build not only a farmhouse but also an integrated public house. This is when the first tourists started coming to Au. The local log-building method (beam walls) was dressed up for the tourists: with high, wide rooms, elegant panelling, gables above the windows and a porch richly decorated with fretwork. However, it wasn’t all for the benefit of the holidaymakers: the livestock was accommodated in the animal barns soundly built from natural stone. The hay was stored in the room above, and next to it dance music was played in a hall.
4. Holdamoos mountain pasture hut nature experience
The ancient hut in Holdamoos belonged to a mountain pasture, which is a special form of the alp. It comprises a cleared area with huts and animal barns. As the middle part of the rural three-level method of farming in the Bregenzerwald, it lies at an altitude of around 1,000 to 1,200 metres above sea level. Above it, i.e. even higher up the mountain, the high mountain pastures are used for farming livestock. The mountain pasture is used as grazing land for the livestock between late May and late June, and then again between mid-September and mid-October. The movement of man and beast from the valley, the first stage, to the mountain pasture and high mountain pasture, originates from the nomad farming tradition.
5. Hotel Am Holand
Hemp used to be grown here. Its fibres are like hair – “Hor” in the local dialect. And that is where the name “Holand” comes from. Just over a generation ago, the only thing to be found on this spot was a 300-year-old farmhouse. Ruined back then, it is the soul of the complex these days. First of all it was turned into an public house. Then, 20 years later, it became a hotel with a new building. The appeal of the complex is in the thorough redevelopment of the old house, in the considerable distance between the new and the old buildings, and in the wellproportioned courtyard located between them, as well as in the design of the new building, which respects that of the old building. A triad which is in perfect harmony with the mountain backdrop.
Architect: Hager Plant GmbH
6. Haus G.
A residential building the likes of which is frequently found in the Bregenzerwald. Modern designs and ecological qualities are important, such as by using sustainable building materials like wood. Ultimately, however, it is the price that counts. It has to be kept as low as possible. This is well served by the popular practice of DIY and help from the neighbourhood coupled with good planning with the same kind of elements and prefabricated parts. Thriftiness applied to the building and the use of produced materials also play an important role: the supporting walls of the terrace were made out of the stones found in the building pit.
Architect: Christian Albrecht
7. Haus B.
This Bregenzerwald house is 300 years old. And one of the last to be made from untreated wood. You can smell the various scents which wood exudes. Spruce and larch smell tangy and resinous, whereas the Swiss stone pine has a sweet, aromatic scent. Elms, on the other hand, smell somewhat sour. Burning herbs for their smoke, as is the custom here, adds further aromas to the house: from fir resin, forest incense and a bouquet of mountain juniper and masterwort. The pleasant smells evoke a string of agreeable sensations, are stimulating, calming, relaxing – and some of them even have healing properties.
Au gained great fame thanks to the Au Guild of Craftsmen. Established in 1657 by master builder Michael Beer, the guild grew into the “Bregenzerwälder Barockbaumeisterschule” (Bregenzerwald School of Baroque Master Builders) which influenced baroque architecture in Southern Germany, Switzerland and Alsace for over a century. However, the first settlers came to Au long before this, i.e. in the 13th century. Flooded by high tides annually, the valley floors (“Auen”) were cultivated, the first chapel was consecrated in 1372, the late Gothic parish church was built in 1494, extended in the 18th century and converted to the baroque style in 1782 by the famous stucco artist Johann Jakob Rüf.
9. Hotel Krone
An establishment for guests, located on ancient settlement land at a crossroad of important roads, and familyowned for five generations – how is this possible despite the changing times? Modernisation by architects Oskar Leo Kaufmann and Albert Rüf that tool 15 years and four construction phases provides the answer: it takes experience, questions about the meaning of it all, cosmopolitan views and an attachment to one’s home village. Yet it also involves the use of indigenous building materials and local craftsmanship that has developed into a global brand. It gets its energy from the valley, from the forest and the mountains – and you can view all of this from the Sky Spa.
Architects: Oskar Leo Kaufmann & Albert Rüf
Book & Folder
Details of the objects are described in an accompanying folder. Furthermore, a book on the subject containing the background histories to the way of life in the Bregenzerwald is available. The information media are available from any one of the tourist information offices and from Bregenzerwald Tourismus.