Nowhere else in Europe will you find such a comparable density of workshops. Work performed in the Werkraum has an international presence, and the innovative craftspeople are in demand both at home and abroad. The Handwerk+Form competition, held every three years for over 25 years now, shows the public how experts from all areas of design cooperate with craftsmen from the Bregenzerwald in order to develop useful objects which do justice to their material and shape. In 2018 the Handwerk+Form exhibition takes place on 13/14 and 19 – 21 October from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Since 2016, the Werkraum and the Bezau commercial colleges have been pioneering a training model to ensure sufficient numbers of skilled workers in the area of crafts.
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The Werkraum Bregenzerwald
Since its establishment in 1999, the Bregenzerwald Werkraum, organised as an association, has been providing a platform for innovative craftsmanship in the Bregenzerwald. It currently comprises about 90 innovative firms, mainly involved in wood processing, such as joiners and carpenters, but there is also a handful of locksmiths, stonemasons, bricklayers, plumbers, electricians, lighting producers, painters, upholsterers, tailors and cobblers, through to coopers and feltworkers.
Qualities of craftsmanship
Work on site, consideration of special cases, direct commissioning, closeness to customers and flexibility are quality standards of this craftsmanship; specialised skills and a creative instinct are par for the course, acquired in a highly developed culture of craftsmanship, naturally handed down from generation to generation. This store of knowledge and skills is maintained and continually extended: raw materials – such as the silver fir – are cultivated to their most exquisite form, small batches in the field of furniture construction open up new markets, the pre-production of construction elements, e.g. in the field of modular construction made of wood, is making progress. The latest manufacturing technologies such as CAM and CNC have been introduced; the finish of coatings, for instance, has been expanded – craftsmanship meets engineering.
Hence, it comes as no surprise that you can find kitchens from Hittisau in Athens, that the furnishings of a hall of residence in Massachusetts come from Schwarzenberg or that a living unit from Reuthe was visible on the roof of the MoMA in New York. Public relations work, advertising, marketing – the Werkraum uses those advantages which industry has over trade. Yet without a huge budget: instead, it has capital typical to craftsmen – brains and skills, a network, links. Further, the Werkraum is omnipresent for the interested public in the specialist press and is managed “as a landscape of knowledge”. Yet that is not all: the Werkraum has always been involved at local level, such as in training, in schools, in specific construction projects, in dealing with historical building stock. It is a contribution towards the structural change of the region, and an example of social competence.