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A ‘Tempel’ of Enjoyment

A ‘Tempel’ of Enjoyment

A ‘Tempel’ of Enjoyment

Once upon a time, there was a pond in Mellau. Later, there was an old farm at a well with seven owners. Today, the address at Tempel 74 is a building complex moulded after the tradition of a local cooperative idea: it’s the holiday apartment complex run by Evi and Jürgen Haller.

The air is delightfully scented with the smell of freshly baked apple pie. Leni, the little daughter of hosts Evi and Jürgen Haller, plays happily in the back of the room, where daylight streams in from a circular window in the ceiling above. The spacious guest and reception room is partially below street level. Covering the rising hill, it opens up to a well-lit space in the front. Framed by two apartment buildings, it is sheltered yet invitingly open.

One building has apartments with terraces or typical Bregenzerwald style porches, the other serves as an architect’s office in the basement. The latter also features a parlour on the ground floor and apartments on the upper floors. We sit together on this rainy morning and I discover how it all began:

Once upon a time in an old house in Bildstein…

“When the old Mesmerhaus in Bildstein was signed over to me 15 years ago, I guess I also inherited the job of hostess that went along with it,” says Evi Haller. “My Great Aunt Maria was the last occupant of the building, which had been in the family for many generations. She was one of the first to rent out guest rooms in the village. She lived with the guests, took them on excursions into the surrounding area, and sat with them on a bench in front of the house in the evenings to enjoy a view of the valley below. Here, visitors were always welcome and were offered homemade schnapps. Over the years, many guests became friends. The entries in her old guest book were a testament to just how beloved Maria was amongst her guests. Such notes are similar to those we find in our guestbook today, which means we’re still doing something right!” But what to do with the big house in Bildstein? Evi Haller, formerly Böhler, was intent on preserving and renovating the house, which was not an easy undertaking, given that the building was historically listed. During the planning phase, she met master builder Jürgen Haller. He was to be her future husband, which also speaks to his talent for long-term planning. Jürgen brought with him the right design ideas for the house renovations and some bright ideas for its use. “It quickly became clear that Evi and I would move to Mellau together. So why not do in Bildstein what countless people in the Bregenzerwald have already done: rent out holiday apartments. The building’s exceptional architecture and exposed location made it possible to create a unique tourist offer here.” Today, this architectural jewel situated next to the Bildstein Basilica is a popular holiday domicile and offers Evi and Jürgen Haller a wealth of experience. “Without the Mesmerhaus, Tempel 74 would not exist,” agrees the pair with conviction.

A different future for the pig farm

Where the two office and guest houses stand today, directly on a right-angled bend, there used to be a farm owned by a lone farmer. In the evenings, Ambros, as he was called, wandered through the village, stopping at various inns to pick up the leftovers from the kitchen to feed to his pigs. The innkeepers appreciated this service and often invited him to dinner and a drink. If he drank one too many, sometimes Ambros might spill some rubbish on the street as he returned home. The next morning, the village fire brigade would help to collect his leavings. After Ambros’ death, the farm stood empty for a long time and soon fell into ruin. It rained through the broken roof, and in winter the fire brigade had to go out to remove masses of snow. The heiress waited patiently for interested parties to contact her. Surely someone would want to make something suitable out of the old farm? The right people finally came along when the Hallers came calling. The pair, along with neighbours, presented her with a concept. “The Mesmerhaus in Bildstein finally won her over. We managed to turn an old building into something equally new, and she trusted us to do the same in Mellau.” The old farm was not able to be saved, so Jürgen Haller envisaged a new building in its place, which would correspond to the old building in terms of material, appearance and size. The design advisory board of the municipality, which included Bregenzerwald architects Hermann Kaufmann, Walter Felder and Helmut Dietrich, was involved in the planning early on.

“There are now two buildings,” explains Jürgen Haller, “right on the edges of the streets and at different levels. The first building houses an office, where the cheese cellar and the pigsty used to be. The first floor of this building is connected with the ground floor of the second one. The two buildings resemble traditional Bregenzerwald-style houses in their proportions. They are unusual by today’s standards, however, so we needed special solutions.” Without betraying tradition or modernity, the two houses fit together to form a harmonious unit called Tempel 74. Ten holiday apartments, each different in shape, orientation and size, are furnished in the same simple elegant style. Each unit has a special feature: one building has a dining area under the gable, the other a slanted skylight above the shower. “It gives me great pleasure to find the exact right apartment for each guest,” says Evi Haller. “What helps me is that I already know many of the guests who’ve stayed at the Mesmerhaus. They now come to Vorarlberg twice a year: to Lake Constance in summer and to the Bregenzerwald in winter.”

A cooperative idea with a local tradition

At Tempel 74, the apartments belong to different owners. Several neighbours participated in the purchase and construction of the buildings. “Evi handles the renting, and the income is shared jointly, regardless of which apartment is currently being rented. The income goes into a pool and is divided according to ownership shares. In this way, we are all co-owners and joint beneficiaries,” says Jürgen Haller in explaining the concept that won over the heiress of the Ambros’ farm at the time. It is reminiscent of an idea by Franz Michael Felder: The Schoppernau farmer, economist and author founded the first cooperative in the Bregenzerwald in the 19th century. At that time, several farmers worked the land and pooled the yield together. Felder’s participatory concept has now been practiced in the valley for over 150 years. A symbol of this enduring spirit of cooperation is right outside the door at Tempel 74. It is the well of the hamlet that has always consisted of seven houses. The fountain forms the central square, formerly a washing and watering place, which today is a meeting place of approx. 36 m2, of which each of the surrounding houses owns one seventh. Like the village of Mellau, the hamlet lies at the foot of the most iconic Bregenzerwald mountain, the Kanisfluh. In the middle of the 13th century, a huge rockfall and subsequent masses of earth turned the area of today’s hamlet into a swamp. Over time, the bog gradually receded, leaving behind ponds. The result allowed farmers to settle on the solid ground. They called their hamlet “Tümpel (Pond).” The word Tümpel morphed into Tempel (temple): a quite unpretentious name, just like the Bregenzerwald, but also with the potential to engender myths.

Author: Carina Jielg
Issue: Bregenzerwald Travel Magazine – Summer 2022