Ms Konrad, why is it important that Vorarlberg has its own institution for contemporary architecture?
The vai is just one of several bodies that are concerned with architecture in Austria. These institutions were all established independently of each other but we all operate from a common assumption and that is that the culture of building touches everyone. We want to promote and raise awareness of architecture and the culture of building as issues that are important to society. That’s why we try to address different target groups with what we do.
Who are your target groups?
We approach different groups with a variety of activities that range from projects for schools to formats for experts. Through our work, we enable people to actively participate in discussions about architecture and critically reflect on their roles and activities as architects, builder-owners, business people, officials responsible for the culture of building within the individual municipalities, tradespeople and so on. We want this culture of reflection and discussion to strengthen the municipalities’ processes of the culture of building that are apparent from the architecture that is being created within them.
Verena Konrad, vai director
Municipalities have understood how important their role as models is and that the design of public buildings is an important driver where the culture of building is concerned.
How are you putting this into practice?
Our spectrum ranges from exhibitions, the organisation and staging of awards for builder-owners, symposia and such discussion formats as the Energy Lounge along with collaborations with universities and research projects and even the architectural education of children and young people as well as guided tours of building sites and buildings within the scope of our “On Site with Architecture” series. We visit schools in Vorarlberg within our “Unit Architektur” project, for instance, and arrange summer programmes with architecture workshops for children. We also document what’s happening in regard to Vorarlberg’s architecture with the help of regular publications and capture data for nextroom – the Austrian database for architecture. We also arrange trips for people who are interested in architecture and work closely with the tourist bodies in Vorarlberg in this regard.
How was the vai established?
In February 1997, around 20 architects and artists as well as representatives from building authorities and property developers met at the Collegiate Church of St. Gerold for a working weekend at which they discussed the purpose and goals of an institution aimed at strengthening the culture of building in Vorarlberg. As a result of this meeting, the association was established. We’ve been operating as a non-profit limited company since 2003. The vai aims to achieve close contact with its membership, which is composed of architects, construction companies, tradespeople, builder-owners and people who are generally interested in the culture of building. Our events are largely open to the public and free of charge. We want as many people as possible to be interested in quality architecture and the culture of building.
You’ll find innovative architecture even in the smallest of places throughout Vorarlberg.
That’s right, there are many architectural highlights to be discovered across Vorarlberg. There are genuinely lots of quality buildings – particularly public ones. For instance, bus stops, hospitals, schools and kindergartens. Municipalities have understood how important their role as models is and that the design of public buildings is an important driver where the culture of building is concerned.
If, for example, a new school is going to be built, its design will from the outset be ecological and multifunctional and attempt to make children aware of architecture as a topic from an early age.
When tourists think of Vorarlberg and architecture, they usually think of timber structures, don’t they?
Timber buildings are very important in Vorarlberg. A very specific understanding for working with wood has developed here as a result of long tradition. But the region doesn’t only have timber architecture to offer. Large firms such as Marte.Marte Architekten, for example, also like working in concrete and there are also many solidly constructed buildings. You’ll find that the same variety of construction materials are used here in Vorarlberg as elsewhere. But a special level of mastery has been achieved in the field of building with wood and it is being continuously developed and advanced.
- The vai arranges trips for people who are interested in architecture and works closely with the tourist bodies in Vorarlberg in this regard. You’ll find the dates on the website.
- For the purposes of providing an overview, the vai is using its website to create an ever-growing and detailed illustrated database of the important construction projects in the region.
- Vorarlberger Architektur Institut