In terms of curation, this exhibition required a critical approach to the development and current state of Vorarlberg’s building culture. The idea was not to present its audience with anecdotal or prototypical examples of the architecture, as this would fail to do justice to either the specific context or the thematic elements that go beyond the local conditions determining the buildings’ origins, subjects that now preoccupy architectural colleagues around the world.
Getting Things Done is conceived on the basis of a dual function: on the one hand, the internal process of putting the project together in terms of the continuity of discursive analysis and critical self-enquiry we strive for as we grapple with the media requirements of the website and the series of publications that are to accompany the exhibition; on the other, the question of external representation, of showing the exhibition with its specific regional aspects so that they make an immediate impression and are of global interest.
This dual function is reflected by the design of the website as a dynamic and easy-to-use information platform for open discourse. The website is thus a second level for the process-based dimensions of this project, alongside the magazine series. Of course the website is also the location for the communication of all information on the status of the exhibition, accompanying or associated events, and other news using a blog. It is very important that the information given on the website complements and enhances the two other elements of Getting Things Done, and does not merely duplicate the contents of the exhibition and magazine series. The autonomy that this engenders provides space to present the process development or materials from the extended pool of project resources. At many junctures it is possible to participate in discussion via comments functions, to follow the project via one of numerous social media platforms, and – as in the digital guest book at the exhibition – to produce own content and take an active part in the discourse of the community.
Since building culture is also sustained by knowledge, which is based on hard-won practical experience and the immediacy of getting things done, we have explored the stories of those actors who have contributed to Vorarlberg’s architectural development in the most varied ways. This has given rise to an expanding collection of interviews, more than seventy film documentations that take into account the lively diversity of this evolutionary process.
The interview material reflects the dual function of Getting Things Done in exemplary fashion: on the one hand, the internal process of putting the project together in terms of the continuity of discursive analysis and critical self-enquiry we strove for as we grappled with the media requirements of the website and the series of publications that are to accompany the exhibition; on the other, the question of external representation, of showing the exhibition with its specific regional aspects so that they make an immediate impression and are of global interest.
What may seem at first sight like a contradiction turns out, on closer inspection, to actually be the specific quality of Vorarlberg’s architecture. This may serve to exemplify the potential of a process of development whose contextual anchoring gives it a paradigmatic quality in light of the questions that are everywhere being raised about the extent to which the rapid process of globalization that affects almost every area of our lives can be reconciled with specifically local challenges without running the risk of being tarred with the brush of traditionalism or narrow-minded regionalism.
This approach has led us to apply a thematic structure to the selection of projects that are not assessed solely on the basis of the specific architectural qualities inherent in each one. This process of selection opened our eyes to typological variances and correspondences in functional and formal terms. The essential feature of a form of pragmatism that is centred on a specific context is reflected in the local recognition value of an architectural phenotype that follows locally cognate design principles adapted in each case to the unique conditions of the environment.
With a total of more than 230 projects and around 700 photographic illustrations, the works of each of the individual architects are, generally speaking, presented on one of the more than seventy display panels, with one side showing the “feature” project by means of detailed descriptions, plans, and photographs, and the other side visualizing the work’s genesis by offering a representative sample of different projects and putting the individual building in the context of the conditions inherent to its development.
There can be no doubt that one of the main factors in the success and sustained quality of the building culture in Vorarlberg is the role of craft techniques and the forms of industrial production that have been derived from them. If, at the inception of the new Vorarlberg architecture in the 1960s, the innovative impulses still came from the designers who planned the buildings, thereafter the craft techniques with their unbroken historical continuity increasingly broke free of the influence of architects. That both craftspeople and architects still benefit from this may be due to the manageable scale of local building projects, while at the same time having to do with the fact that the close-knit social networks result in very short lines of communication, allowing the individual actors to learn from one another and push each other to new heights of creative achievement. A typical example of this kind of peer motivation is the Craft+Form competition, where the craft businesses of the Bregenzerwald area are invited every three years to develop and publicly present a piece of work in tandem with a designer based in Austria or further afield.
We have made the special role played by craft techniques a pretext for highlighting the sensual and haptic quality of the buildings within the context of the exhibition and for taking on tour a total of thirteen classic, handcrafted Craft+Form submissions.
The exhibition display, which can be seen as a series of folders hanging in space, has been designed according to a modular concept, catering to the fact that the exhibition requires quick and easy assembly and disassembly, should weigh little, and be compact enough to be readily transportable, while also needing to be adaptable to the widely varying physical realities of the different spaces it will be put into. A monitor is mounted at each end of the wooden support frame, with one screen showing clips from the interviews mentioned above and the other the ever-increasing fund of video feedback that visitors to the individual venues can leave in the digital guestbook with the aid of a tablet. For the purposes of the exhibition, the transport crates are turned upside down to become finely worked pedestals on which the craft objects can be displayed along with a small travelling library stocked with a selection of titles relating to the topics of the exhibition.
We have further developed the interaction and feedback tools in the website, which is designed as a dynamic information platform that is easy to operate and provides a venue for open discussion. In parallel with the series of magazines that are being published, the website thus acts as a second mainstay for the project’s process-oriented dimension. The website is, of course, also a means of communicating information about the status of the exhibition, advertising events connected with it, and passing on other news via the built-in blog. In many parts of the site, you have the opportunity to use the comment function to take part in the discussions, to follow what we are doing via one of the many social media channels, or to get actively involved in the community discourse by producing your own content, much as you can with the digital guestbook.
The aim of the series of publications — initially scheduled to appear in ten issues under the title Getting Things Done: Evolution of the Built Environment in Vorarlberg and put out by Birkhäuser — is not only to offer in-depth articles on the main themes of the exhibition but also to make productive use of the responses and feedback coming out of the individual venues.
Getting Things Done:
Evolution of the Built Environment in Vorarlberg
Designated part of the permanent collection of vorarlberg museum
Ambassador Martin Eichtinger, Head of the Cultural Policy Section V of the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs
Christian Brunmayr, Minister in charge of Department V.2, Organization of Cultural and Scientific Events Abroad
Susanne Ranetzky, Undersecretary of Department V.2
Winfried Nußbaummüller, Director of the Department of Culture, Office of the Vorarlberg State Government
Wolfgang Fiel and Denizhan Sezer
Renate Breuß, Director of the Werkraum Bregenzerwald
Robert Fabach, Head of the aav, Architekturarchiv Vorarlberg
Verena Konrad, Director of the vai, Vorarlberger Architektur Institut
Christian Schützinger, Managing Director of Vorarlberg Tourismus
Martin Bereuter und Wolfgang Fiel
Clemens Theobert Schedler, Büro für konkrete Gestaltung
Tischlerei Bereuter, Lingenau
Typico GmbH & Co KG
Martin Wolfgang Chiettini
Erich Bendl and Thomas Bendl
Greg Bond und Simon Cowper
Berno Odo Polzer