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A Sunday outing to the building on stilts

A Sunday outing to the building on stilts

A Sunday outing to the building on stilts

The Andelsbuch ‘Umgang’ village tour showcases works by some of Vorarlberg's best-known architects. Wood is a central element, but also concrete, which blends into the surroundings. A building by Pritzker prize-winner Peter Zumthor is also included.

This Sunday morning, like many a Sunday before, my wife and I discuss how best to spend the day. As usual, we decide to go to the Bregenzerwald for a winter excursion. “We could”, I say to my wife, “take a wonderful walk from Bezau to Andelsbuch. We could pass by Bezegg, the place where, according to legend, the town hall of the free Bregenzerwald once stood on pillars.” “But that doesn’t exist anymore,” she says. I explain to her that there is now a memorial column called the “Bezegg-Sul.” “That sounds nice”, my wife replies. “Afterwards, we can do the ‘Umgang’ village tour in Andelsbuch. You remember, the rust-colored informational columns that draw attention to special features in the village?”

Having just arrived in Andelsbuch, my wife suggests that we first visit the “Jöslar,”  an old yet recently renovated inn because she is hungry. There they serve wonderful “Seelen,” warm bread filled with fine ingredients. Afterwards in a snowy Andelsbuch, we head to point number 2 of the Umgang village tour, which denotes the old station of the Bregenzerwaldbahn, a narrow-gauge railway that was founded in 1902 and closed down in 1983. Today, the building houses a culture association, which has been organising culture events in the region for many years. We don’t need to look far to find point 1 of the tour, as the Werkraumhaus of Swiss architect Peter Zumthor is right next door. The Werkraumhaus is an association of nearly one hundred craftsmen’s workshops in the Bregenzerwald and it is here that they often showcase their works, most of which have been developed in collaboration with designers. Some such showcases are actually large exhibitions.

In an attempt to impress my wife, I share a few facts about the building: “Timber construction and contemporary architecture play an important role throughout the Bregenzerwald. In the ‘Umgang Andelsbuch,’ this is evident by the fact that almost all the selected objects are pure or at least partially wooden buildings.” “But why”, my wife immediately corrects me, “is the next building on concrete stilts?” She means the new town hall, which is modelled on the historically unconfirmed municipal building in Bezegg. According to legend, the building stood on stilts and the councilmen were not allowed to exit the building until they had made their decisions. Modern-day architects Rolf Ennulat, Wise Gehrer and Walter Felder obviously think this would still be a good idea today.

“Incidentally, the next object is not made of wood, but of concrete,” my wife explains to me. She’s referring to the elementary school designed by Bregenz architect Heinz Köhler in the 1960s. The building is typical of its time: sensibly designed to harmonize with the gentle slope behind the church and the cemetery wall. “Since we are already at the cemetery,” I suggest, “we should visit the grave of Franz Michel Willam, one of Vorarlberg’s greatest scholars in the 20th century. He was a theologian and writer and wrote the most famous Jesus book of his time.” This time my wife is impressed.

The next buildings are by well-known examples by some of Vorarlberg’s master architects: Walter Holzmüller, Bernardo Bader, Helmut Dietrich and Thomas Mennel. The final building, the office building of the Wälder Versicherung insurance company designed by Jürgen Haller and Peter Plattner, is entirely made of wood. Wooden slats form not only the façade, but also the roof. It’s an idiosyncratic, exciting progression of timber construction. So far, this Sunday excursion has been a total success. But I have one more suggestion to make: “For the architectural finale, how about we take the cable car up to the Niedere, where you can visit one of the most beautiful chapels in the state? It was designed by Cukrowicz/ Nachbaur.” At the close of this thrilling day, we’ve been treated to architecture from some of the state’s very best!

Issue: Winter 2020-21 Bregenzerwald Travel Magazine
Author: Walter Fink