Vorarlberg. Building culture for all
We cannot understand the development of Vorarlberg’s architectural culture without its spatial, topographical, and socio-economic context. There is a great contrast between rural valleys and the busy, semi-urban Rhine Valley. With their exemplary buildings, states and municipalities model the production of excellent, contemporary architecture. Industrial and commercial architecture has achieved an impressive corporate identity as well. However, we rarely find the same quality in residential construction. Because of the high cost of real estate and construction apartment buildings have grown up like mushrooms, intruding upon areas formerly predominated by detached housing. Urban sprawl has eliminated the borders between the 29 municipalities of the Rhine Valley, resulting in a giant suburban landscape. To remedy this process, the players cooperate with the regional authorities as they carry out their vision of urban planning, including guidelines and ideas. Because planning and production have become so complex, urban and regional development has turned into an immense challenge. Provincial and municipal authorities value openness, participation, common good, ecology, and sustainability and involve citizens and adapt the process to their needs. Still, they must consider subsidy rules and regulations, which, until now, have privileged private property over common good and have prioritized ecological standards over architectural quality and the concerns of urban planning. Since 1997, the Vorarlberg Architecture Institute, has inspired, challenged, and spoken for the architectural-cultural scene. It continues to mediate and complement the discourse and activities of the Central Association of the Architects of Vorarlberg. In addition, the Chamber of Architects strives to improve competition procedures. The Energy Institute Vorarlberg supports ecology and promotes sustainability. The Quality Association “vorarlberger_holzbaukunst” has promoted the renaissance of timber construction. Carpenters and architects actively support the prefabrication and development of new technical solutions. Similarly, the members of the Werkraum Bregenzerwald, a craftsmen’s association, continue and transform the cultural heritage in sophisticated and resource-friendly ways, as evidenced by many buildings and the “Werkraumhaus” itself. Vorarlberg’s hospitality industry plays an important role in supporting and promoting the architectural culture. However, thoughtful and coordinated master planning is necessary to expand the quality of individual architectural projects to urban and regional planning and construction. This transition will be the most important challenge for the period of urban densification. Vorarlberg may be Alpine – even rural – but it is urban without doubt.