Bregenzerwald. It’s entirely possible you haven’t heard of it. It’s a small region in Vorarlberg, the alpine corner of western Austria. A mostly rural region of small villages and wide-open spaces, this is perhaps one of the last places you’d expect to find a thriving modern art scene.
But those rolling landscapes are becoming known for something other than ski resorts and mountain hikes. Vorarlberg is pioneering a movement towards modern design and architecture, and has been attracting international attention for a while now. Bregenzerwald is the perfect place to discover some of the region’s artistic highlights…
Image copyright: Bregenzerwald Turismus GmbH
In a tiny village of around 1000 inhabitants, you might not expect to uncover any particularly striking architecture. I certainly didn’t when I arrived in Krumbach, a sleepy town surrounded by green hills and forests stretching almost as far as I could see.
And yet the town is home to a fascinating architectural project. The Krumbach BUS:STOP project is a series of seven bus stops throughout the town, each of which was designed by a different architect. The designers are all renowned architects from around the world, and it can be a fun challenge to try to guess which country each bus stop. There are offerings from Japan, Belgium, Spain, Chile, Russia, Norway, and China.
The architects were given more or less total freedom in what they created. Some took the surrounding landscapes or the traditional crafts of the region as inspiration, others created something totally wild and unexpected.
For those interested in learning a little more about the architecture, art, and culture of the region, Bregenzerwald’s Umgang walking routes are the perfect solution. These are self-guided walking tours through various villages around the region. There are twelve in total, and each one visits the architectural highlights and quirky corners of the villages.
The routes are marked out by cleverly designed interactive posts, and you can also pick up small fold-out maps which are packed full of interesting information. It’s a really nice way to discover the smaller villages of the region and get a little off the beaten path. Not only will you learn more about the local culture, but you’ll also be able to get a closer look at the flourishing modern architecture scene.
Bregenzerwald has a strong tradition of craft, building, and artistry. While artisanal methods and hand-made furnishings might be dying out elsewhere thanks to the likes of mass-produced flat-pack pieces, the traditional methods are still considered best around Vorarlberg.
The Werkraumhaus in Andelbuch, Bregenzerwarld provides a space for artists, designers and other craftsmen to showcase and exhibit their work – helping to keep these important traditions alive. The huge workshop – itself a fascinating piece of architecture – is a merger of around 90 of Bregenzerwald’s most innovative workshops.
Carpenters, clothing designers, light designers and all sorts more can be found exhibiting here. As well as providing a showcase for the best local design work, the Werkraumhaus organises exhibitions, competitions and talks, creating a fantastic way to push local design and innovation forward.
These are just three examples of Bregenzerwald’s incredible art and design scene – but there’s so much more to discover. Just get out there and explore!
For more information about exploring Vorarlberg, check out my guide to Vorarlberg in summer.
My trip to Vorarlberg was part of a press trip organised by Visit Austria and Vorarlberg State Tourist Board. As always, all words and opinions are mine and unbiased.