This also rings true of the contemporary buildings in the village which has been awarded the main ARGE-Alp prize for modern architecture in rural areas. The jury praised the plain new buildings which fit in with the character of the village. The typical “Hag” (fence) and the bedding meadows in Bizau’s marshland are worth a visit.
1. Village hall
The new village hall was built step by step in 1989 with the fire station at the back. This was somewhat paradoxical: the one-street village was given a centre! Located opposite the church, public amenities such as the village hall, bank, tourist information office and citizens’ service centre are housed underneath a steep roof. It even contains a flat. The colonnades on the street side of the building are remarkable: at the main entrance, they open upwards to a light stairwell. The wooden façade on the public building had to put up with some stick at the start – these days, however, it has been accepted by all.
The kindergarten is an award-winning timber building. Three conditions must be met so as to be prize-worthy: consideration of the environment, an appropriate scale, and timber as the building material. Such timber houses were still evoking violent reactions as recently as in the 1980s. Back then, only structures made from brick or stone were considered proper. Timber was seen as a building material for farmers and peasants. Meanwhile, the young generation has come to appreciate the sustainability of a timber house and the reinterpretation of an independent building tradition. Excellent wooden architecture is seen as a trademark of the Bregenzerwald.
The house is indicative of the care applied to its modernisation by its occupants over many years. Its shingle roof is unusual these days, yet was once the norm. It is low-sloped to prevent it from being blown off by the wind, yet it still diverts water. The shingles are 50 cm long, a good centimetre thick and are laid four on top of each other. They are made from larch from high-alpine regions which are felled in the winter. Even-sized rounds are sawn from the fresh wood, which are chopped into eighths. They are then “cleaned”, i.e. smoothed, and are left to dry for several weeks. Then the shingles are finished.
4. Haus M. + W.
The baroque master builders introduced the locals to fine architecture. Inspired by them and by 19th-century´sample books, a fine style of home furnishing developed amongst the rural community. The parlour with wood panelling, tiled stove, sideboard, wall clock and a settee forms the centre of the home. Farmers spent the evenings making numerous pieces of such furniture, rich in their diversity and mostly with a vertical backrest, meaning that you sat upright. The younger generation live a more casual life these days: a couch, mattresses and cushions are a frequent substitute for the settee. And the richly decorated sideboard has been replaced by a kitchen in a sophisticated design.
5. Wooden fence
In the form of the “Steackohag” wooden fence, the village opened a memorial to the countryside. A fence as a memorial, you are thinking? What is there to think about? Firstly, a special country lane, the “Alpgasse”, is being honoured. The cattle used to be driven to the alp on it once upon a time. Secondly, it serves as a reminder of the time before land consolidation took place. Back then, such fences were common in the valley. Thirdly, it highlights a certain style. In earlier times, fences were made from whatever was available: wood and labour. It was only once the farmers began to make money from their agricultural crops that they could afford barbed wire or, these days, electric fences.
6. Wälderfenster production facility
This production facility, built in 1995, was extremely controversial at the start. Until then, workshops had been accommodated in Bregenzerwald houses. This production facility has a surface area of 20 x 40 metres, and is illuminated by daylight. Its supports, the façade of trussed beams and the roof surfaces are all made from solid wood. As suggested by the name, the shape of the “sawtooth roof” corresponds with the façade and its window slits. They give structure to the building which, at the time, represented the start of the staggered houses upon entering the village.
7. Biohotel Schwanen
“Schwanen”, the traditional public house which has been here since 1860, has been turned into an organic hotel. As in earlier times, great importance is attached to close cooperation with farmers from the region. The chefs – who call themselves the “Wilde Weiber” or “wild women” – turn this produce into unconventional and, not seldom, into surprising dishes. They consciously and carefully use foodstuffs according to their effects. The “wild women” base their creations on regional and seasonal factors. You can expect to be served seasonal produce from the Bregenzerwald.
8. Mortuary chapel
Instead of the old war memorial, the village had a simple, protected place built for laying out. The question of what a mortuary chapel typical of the village should look like was examined in detail for some time. The architect suggested a building which is orientated entirely towards its actual purpose, namely to be a space where visitors can come to mourn and reflect, bright and without any external stimuli. Above it, a protruding roof hovers like a canopy that can be seen at a traditional procession in the Bregenzerwald. A wall comprising two stone slabs designed by an artist to be joined like a cross stands in front of the mortuary chapel. Its structure allows an unrestricted view outside the chapel from the inside.
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.