Werkraum Bregenzerwald: Traditional craftsmanship as an intangible cultural heritage

Symposium , Werkraumhaus, Andelsbuch, Austria.


September 22, 2017
The traditional craftsmanship in Austria - and globally - needs a new self-understanding and more public awareness of its social value in order to remain alive. Entire branches of work and the associated knowledge and skills are threatened with extinction: it is time to counteract these negative tendencies. Not only as a sustainable response to the mass production of global markets, the digitization of the working world and over-consuming consumption, but also to a promising and meaningful training and career offer for future generations. Werkraum Bregenzerwald is a craft and trade association established in 1999, uniting craftsmen of different guilds, promoting cooperation and exchange of ideas.
Today, it consists of 90 members representing different crafts and trades such as carpentry, cabinet making, metal work, plumbing, electrical engineering, upholstery, construction, clothing, shoemaking, goldsmith and other service sectors. Most workshops are small enterprises with fewer than 10 employees.
The activities of Werkraum are financed through annual membership fees and funds from government and the EU, and regional subsidies and private sponsorships. The association is run by a headquarter with a CEO and a board of 7 directors – all of them owner of crafts enterprises, representing the different branches and subregions.
As a joint platform, the Werkraum organises permanent and mobile exhibitions, trainee programs to make crafts attractive for young people and public relations. The famous Swiss architect Peter Zumthor is currently planning a new and steady platform for the crafts especially for the Werkraum group in Andelsbuch. Peter Zumthor is an apprenticed cabinet maker himself and his cooperation with the craftspeople of the Bregenzerwald goes back to one of his best known project the Kunsthaus Bregenz (1996), the Columba in Köln and further more.
The result presentation of the study carried out by the Austrian Commission for UNESCO, commissioned by the Federal Chancellery and the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and the Economy, is the occasion of this half-day symposium within the scope of the current exhibition "Archiv der Formen. The focus is also on the training and further education programs of the three Austrian crafts centers - TextilesZentrum Haslach, Hand.Werk.Haus Salzkammergut and Werkraum Bregenzerwald - which have recently been included in the international "UNESCO Register of Good Practice Examples for the Conservation of the Intangible Cultural Heritage".