The backdrop of the Wirmboden summer settlement is the 2,044 metre high Kanisfluh mountain. After an avalanche ripped away the temporary summer settlement’s former chapel, residents had architect’s plan and build a new one in 2016.
A summer retreat for both people and cows
When it comes to agriculture in Bregenzerwald, Wirmboden above Schnepfau is a fairly typical temporary summer settlement. For centuries, the summer pastures here have been cultivated in three stages. Shepherds, Alpine dairymen and cows move from the valley to the mid-elevation pastures in early summer. They then transition to the high mountain pastures in high summer and return back to the valley in autumn. A temporary summer settlement can consist of a lonely hut or several simply furnished Alpine buildings. Today, there are very few pasture settlements like the one the Wirmboden. The most famous is in Schönenbach.
When an avalanche destroyed the old chapel at Wirmboden, property owners of the temporary summer settlement did not hesitate to build a new one. They commissioned Bregenzerwald architectural firm Innauer Matt to design the new chapel. As for the construction, the residents would handle this themselves. The simple building, which is made of stone and concrete, is only 6 metres in size with 6-metre-high walls. The saddle roof is covered with wooden shingles. A window strip in the roof allows light to enter the interior, while a slit with bluish glass in the wall acts as a secondary light source. The modern chapel received the AIT Award in 2018 and the “2A Europe Architecture Award” in 2017.
A giant named Wirm
Anyone driving to the Bregenzerwald from Bregenz or Dornbirn, by bus for instance, cannot fail to notice the rocky walls of the 2,044 m Kanisfluh. According to legend, the region’s most striking mountain is said to have been sculpted by Wirm the giant. Various paths from Mellau and Au lead to the summit of the Kanisfluh, passing the village of Schnepfau and the pasture settlement of Wirmboden on a leisurely circular hiking trail (approx. 3.5 hours return). On the way there, the trail passes through Alpine pastures and forests. On the way back, the trail follows the course of the Bregenzerach river.
The hiking trail to the Wirmboden chapel is only accessible during snow-free months.