A Craft House
The Werkraum Bregenzerwald is an association of currently around 100 membering craftspeople. The Werkraumhaus was built in 2013, designed by the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, built by the craftspeople of the Werkraum.
A venue and showcase – gala area and exhibition space. The broad sweeping roof follows the line of the road and creates a forecourt at the entrance. The recessed glass facadeseems to double as a display window.
Seven hundred square metres laid out under a load-bearing wooden grid, held in place by fourteen finely dimensioned wooden hinged columns and buttressed by three ebony-stainedconcrete blocks. The lift shaft, which has separate access in the cellar outside the building’s glass membrane, and the kitchen and stair block are cut into the structure. The ceiling-high expanses of glass, housed in steel frames, allow outside and inside to blur with one another. A grand gesture of invitation.
The building’s dark materials give it a noble sense of reserve, so that the range of colours that the exhibition objects bring in with them are given a chance to shine.
The 70 metre long matt-black roof area hangs 6 metres above the ground. Two main girders above the support columns act as double beams, 1,3 metres high and 12 centimetres wide. Concealed within the 500 cassettes, a lattice made of 8 cm planks, are the ventilation, lighting, and fire control systems. These are invisible to the eye – what we see are only the thick, dark blue pads and, in the centre, a light.
Underneath, there is the glass wall, stretching as high as current manufacturing technology will allow, profiled in flat steel and flush with the ground. The two dark concrete blocks pierce the glass. The roof stands on fourteen wooden columns that taper off at the ends and are wrapped with leather bands that are within arm’s reach of the ground. Zumthor makes a clear separation between the different parts: the towers stop just below the ceiling, with their alignment according neither with the grid of the ceiling nor with the partitioning of the glass facade.
Long curtains of dark-grey loden cloth are pulled tight to divide the space into zones. This creates a space between the glass and the columns, where the Werkraum members can hold a permanent exhibition of their work.
The Werkraumhaus represents more than just the architectural manifestation of a specific way of utilizing or making reference to traditional archetypes. It was established as a stage, an exhibition space, and a show case for the members of the Werkraum, with whose help it was also developed, and was endowed by its Swiss architect, Peter Zumthor, with a physical conciseness and sense of presence that appeal to all the senses. The building is thus an expression of the concentration and quality of the regional craftsmanship and, at the same time, a celebratory gesture of the proud sense of the protagonists’ own identity, apparent in the way they make the results of their work public and open for discussion.
In this sense, the building is eloquent testimony to the importance of the regional craft culture and the sense of pur pose and willingness of the craftspeople to rise to the challenges of our time through their affiliation with the Werk raum, while retaining their innovative flair by collaborating with architects and designers.