The Werkraum House, in the small village of Andelsbuch, is the latest addition to Swiss Pritzker Prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor's carefully composed portfolio of work; and, with his known love of crafts, it will come as no surprise.
Zumthor has a long-standing relationship with Werkraum, the crafts and trade association in Austria's leafy Bregenzwald region. The association counts 80 makers, builders and artisans - from brick-workers, upholsterers and painters, to cabinet-makers, metal workers, cobblers, carpenters and floor-layers - in its membership register.
Zumthor's contact with Werkraum started in the early 1990s, while he was working on the Kunsthaus in nearby Bregenz. 'Ever since that, he kept in touch with our craftspeople', recalls Werkraum CEO Renate Breuss. 'As a trained cabinet maker himself he was so moved by the passion and ideas behind our association that he offered to design the building in 2008.'
Now completed, the timber and concrete building combines a contemporary, minimalist design with the area's centuries-old local traditions. The relatively modestly-shaped low structure features a striking, large wooden roof and generous, glass-enclosed exhibition spaces. Equipped with offices, seminar and meeting rooms and display areas, it was designed in painstaking detail to provide a much needed space for the association's activities and also to act as a platform for promoting the work and value of local crafts.
'The building was conceived as a showcase and a meeting point for the crafts', says Breuss. 'The result reflects our values and suits our purpose very well - to be a meeting point for the people of the valley and for people from abroad, for crafts and culture. Zumthor brings together the rural context with the world, the local qualities and spirits with the international.'
The recently opened Werkraum House has also launched its first exhibition – which runs until 5 October – where its 80 members will each present one piece that highlights their approach.