Vom Schaufenster zum Wissensfenster – From Display Window to Knowledge Display

An exhibition on knowledge and collaboration in craft.


Werkraumhaus is a venue that showcases regional craft & trade. Supported by the members of Werkraum Bregenzerwald and their works, the opening exhibition of 2021 deals with knowledge and collaboration in craft. The idea for this theme is based on a dialogue workshop at the Werkraum, an event where craftspeople came together to exchange thoughts and develop ideas for activities. As a result, the knowledge deeply rooted in craft became the subject and field of action for this exhibition. We present and discuss objects developed and realized in newly formed collaborations between different crafts and trades. Making the processes of developing and implementing products transparent along with their social, cultural and ecological context creates a juxtaposition between craft and knowledge in one space.


Knowledge in craft encompasses explicit and implicit knowledge. Implicit knowledge is a silent or invisible form of knowledge (also described as hidden knowledge or tacit knowing in English), acquired through repeated action and observation. Explicit knowledge is the knowledge communicated through language.


William Morris, the godfather of design, arts and crafts, spoke of traditional skills in crafts as the art of unconscious intelligence.[1] It is a kind of knowledge inherently tied to action and – as opposed to explicit knowledge – very difficult to grasp. The often-quoted statement by philosopher and scientist Michael Polanyi:


“We can know more than we can tell.“


is, simply put, a reference to skill that is hard to verbalize.[2] How difficult it is to grasp knowledge embedded in a person or action was already known in ancient times. In an ancient Greek text on cooking, an author notes that written records were useless for cooking.[3] Viennese filmmaker and artist Peter Kubelka – who held his lecture “Der handgemachte Mensch“ (The Handmade Human) at Werkraum – is also sceptical of the written word.


„Ihr, der Sprache, werden Dinge zugetraut, die sie gar nicht leisten kann.“ [4]

(We trust language to do things that it is simply not capable of.)


Kubelka suggests introducing a new component to the verbal, the word, the world of words we live in, and that is becoming aware of the importance of the NONVERBAL, the UNSPOKEN, such as procedural memory. This means the fact that some things cannot be described with words but can indeed be done. Doing and speaking are two very different things. Speaking is also an action, but not everything said is also done. Kubelka develops his own approach to the world through making music, filming and cooking and observing processes in nature. Just like craftspeople do. It is indeed possible to know how to do something without knowing how to describe this knowledge. Precise observation and perception with all senses holds as much insight as thought.


How can we create awareness for this form of knowledge that is so much less recognized than theoretical or academic knowledge? Kubelka pleads for a simple language, as the Pre-Socratics are said to have spoken. Polanyi suggests placing expanded perception alongside human knowledge. Knowledge in craft is primarily tied to individuals and actions, he explains. In the process of learning certain actions, it makes intelligent use of the body and its tools. These include sensory perception, limbs and gestures. Knowledge embedded and embodied this way reacts to regulating principles without questioning them, Polanyi elaborates. This form of intelligence was just as important in science, for example when following or solving scientific challenges on the path to new discoveries. As a chemist, Polanyi was speaking from personal experience.


Workshops and construction sites are places of learning and knowledge


Like scientists in laboratories, craftspeople experiment, observe, react immediately to unforeseen circumstances or surprises and make space for chance in their workshops. Particularly when it comes to renovation work, there is a notable increase in knowledge, for example in how to have a positive ecological impact by using resources sustainably.

Leaning into new challenges in dialogue with others creates values and qualities that manifest in the product and its use. “Vom Schaufenster zum Wissensfenster” presents a total of 15 realized projects. Each one was designed and implemented by teams of two to four project partners from the fields of crafts, design or science. Teaming up partners who have not collaborated before produced a range of knowledge practices, from cultivating knowledge to knowledge documentation. Five different messages categorize these knowledge practices inherent to each project, while project texts present the hard facts that come alive in the actual exhibits.

[1] cf. Morris quoted by Almevik, Gunnar (2016): From Archive to Living Heritage, p. 82

[2] cf. Polanyi quoted ibid. p. 82

[3] cf. Breuß, Renate (2019): Das Maß im Kochen, p. 14

[4] Kubelka, Peter (2013): Der handgemachte Mensch (The Handmade Human), unpublished transcript

(Digital) Learning Workshop | Werkraumschule

The learning workshop – the temporary classroom of the Werkraumschule in the Werkraumhaus. This is where the Werkraum students come together with craftsmen and designers for joint craft work. The focus is on doing and dialogue. It is exchanged – new knowledge and experience gained. Hands and material communicate. Objects are created. In addition, children and adolescents, visitors, member companies and guests in the Werkraumhaus are invited to discover the “open” workshop and to take action themselves.


From June 4, 2020, the learning workshop will move back to the Werkraumhaus. Two different projects of the pupils can be seen: The completed project would2050, which was realized in the last few months together with the KLAR! Region Vorderwald-Egg / would2050 and nine Vorderwald communities. The Wetterhäuschen project of the second year, on which the pupils will work in the learning workshop, is still in the making.


Until then, we cordially invite you to discover our digital learning workshop. We created these so the work of the students is visible even in these times!

Werkraumdepot: public guided tours

Study Collection of Contemporary Crafts and

Design in the Bregenzerwald


Guided tours: every first Saturday of the month, 11 am–12 noon or on request

Actually limited to 10 people

€ 7.0 + reduced admission per person

Discounts (students, apprentices): € 4,00 + reduced admission per person

The set-up Werkraumdepot as permanent study collection in the Werkraumhaus provides an in-depth view of contemporary crafts and design from the region. It gets its name from the first showroom of the Werkraum Bregenzerwald operating from 2004 to 2013. Even then, acquisitions of the vorarlberg museum were on display in the werkraum depot in Schwarzenberg – an important forerunner of the Zumthor building in Andelsbuch as exhibition venue and educational facility. The present new installation was made possible through the financial support of the Friends – Freunde des Werkraum Bregenzerwald and can be viewed every first Saturday of the month or on request in a special guided tour option organised by the vorarlberg museum and Werkraum Bregenzerwald.



The impetus for the new installation was triggered by the exhibition shown in summer 2017, Archiv der Formen. Handwerk und Design im Bregenzerwald (Archive of Forms. Crafts and Design in the Bregenz Forest, 1 July – 7 October 2017). This overview, with more than 200 exhibits selected from hitherto 632 submissions to Handwerk + Form, conveyed an overall impression of the developments and the creative richness of the Bregenz Forest craft workshops since the first edition of the design competition in 1991. The exhibition, in its a dense presentation of furniture and objects on room-high shelves, was acclaimed by visitors from home and abroad. Many of the exhibits were loans from the collection of the vorarlberg museum, which were in part stored already in the basement of the Werkraumhaus. The idea therefore seemed obvious to show – at least at certain times – this otherwise invisible “treasure chamber” in a permanent presentation to the interested public.


Treasure chamber and place for learning

The newly set-up Werkraumdepot is spread out on around 200m2 of floor space in the basement of the Werkraumhaus and includes about eighty objects from the collection of the vorarlberg museum, also a few loans directly from the craft workshops. The collection pieces stem mostly from the purchase of exhibits from the exhibition möbel für alle (Everyone’s furniture), also purchases from prize-winning projects from the competition Handwerk + Form from 1991 to the present day. The resulting study collection thus provides an excellent view of the works and influence of the regional craft workshops and manifests the superlative creative standard and quality of their products.


The design team of Robert Rüf (Robert Rüf Industrial Design, Vienna) and Christof Nardin (Büronardin, Vienna), who were also responsible for the summer exhibition, subtly adopted quotations from Archiv der Formen for the setting of the depot. Another specified assignment for the two men from Alberschwende (a village nearby) was to re-use the existing store shelves made of saw-rough, grey-painted wood and thus keep the reconstruction within economic and ecological limits – financing has mainly been provided by the Friends – Freunde des Werkraum Bregenzerwald. Moreover, the shelves are a reminiscence of the Schwarzenberg depot, where they were once in use.


The installation of the objects doesn’t keep to an explicit scheme, but is oriented on the available space – it allows objects or groups and ensembles (shelves, tables, chairs, stools, etc.) to be re-arranged or compacted if necessary. The study collection is not finalised and will offer space for further acquisitions. The object captions are attached with Velcro strips and easily positioned; they are kept to a minimum, since the information and educational options – in part with demonstrations of the way the objects function – are communicated in the guided tours. Guide and visitors wear gloves so as to protect the museum collection items. An introductory video interview made for Archiv der Formen provides a view of the starting situation before the organisation of the design competition and the founding of the Werkraum Bregenzerwald; it includes the “founding fathers” of Handwerk + Form, among them members of the Handwerkverein (Crafts Association) Andelsbuch and the graphic artist Harry Metzler. The competition and the collection möbel für alle supplying the exhibits form the background for the stories behind the individual objects.




Handwerk + Form

For the 200th anniversary of the Handwerkerverein Andelsbuch, in 1991 a design competition titled Handwerk + Form (Crafts + Form) was organised for the first time. The competition’s goal was to develop technically and aesthetically perfected products through the collaboration of regional craftspeople from home and abroad, all on an equal basis. However, only craft workshops and other enterprises from the Bregenz Forest were qualified to submit. The results and this collaboration were adjudicated by an expert jury according to specified criteria and presented to the public in a special exhibition tour through workshops and farm buildings. The competition has been organised by the Werkraum Bregenzerwald in a triennial rhythm since the year 2000 – in 2018 the competition is taking place for the eighth time.


Möbel für alle – Everyone’s Furniture

Vorarlberg is internationally acclaimed for its contemporary building culture. To have this access to architecture, craft enterprises with innovative initiative are needed that are creative and competent partners for the architects. Besides the conventional tasks involved in (interior) architecture, the approach to the kinds of objects and furniture demanded by these spaces is becoming increasingly important. Roland Gnaiger and Adolph Stiller curated the exhibition möbel für alle. designinitiative werkraum bregenzerwald for the Ringturm in Vienna (17 April—18 June 2002). Around forty everyday, functional and aesthetically exceptional objects by Werkraum craft workshops showed the standards of modern furniture construction in the Bregenz Forest – among them many objects that were created for the competition Handwerk+Form. The exhibition and the catalogue made the Bregenzerwald culture of everyday home living accessible to a broad-based public for the first time in contemporary form, and with the highest possible standard of craftsmanship.


The Werkraumdepot is thus an important place for education – not only for the crafts and creative qualities and skills in the regions – but also for the young history of the Werkraum Bregenzerwald and its narrative of change. It supplements and provides an in-depth enhancement to the rest of the presentation in the Werkraumhaus, including special exhibitions and the Werkraumschau (annual members only exhibition). The study collection and depot is a central place for training and learning in crafts and design for the Werkraum school, which will motivate and foster the pupils’ creativity through the example of superlative collection items. Besides the digital and universally accessible collection, the Werkraumdepot offers the opportunity to learn about the physical object, hands-on and in depth.


The Werkraumdepot will be the starting point for the educational and guided tour programme within the framework of the competition Handwerk + Form, which is being held again this year, and the exhibition tour in autumn (13/14/18/19 October 2018).



Study Collection of Contemporary Crafts

and Design in the Bregenzerwald


Opening: February 2, 2018

Guided tours: every first Saturday of the month, 11 am–12 noon or on request

Admission (incl. guided tour): €12 / concessions € 9.- for pupils, apprentices and students


Project Team

Concept: Thomas Geisler

Exhibition Design: Robert Rüf Industrial Design, Vienna

Graphic Design: Büronardin, Vienna

Film Interviews: Karin Guldenschuh

Educational Programme: Verena Dünser


Photos by Roswitha Schneider



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