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Small enough to network with a minimum of fuss and large enough to innovate and quickly manifest new ideas. Close-knit social networks make it possible for people to learn from one another and spur each other on in the field of creative design.

Size and Complexity

In terms of its area and population, Vorarlberg is the second smallest state in Austria. A little over 375,000 inhabitants live in an area of around 2,601 km2. It is a society in a process of change, with a high proportion of Muslims and people with a migrant background. This diversity goes together with a variety of needs and demands, which are also reflected in the building culture. Today Vorarlberg has 149 inhabitants per square kilometre, making it the country's second-most densely populated state after Vienna. The Rhine Valley is an important settlement area and has the warmest climate. With just under 240,000 inhabitants, it is also the largest conurbation in the state.

Geography and Economy

The most western state in Austria is a region of mountains and alps. Only around 20 per cent of its territory is lowland so that areas that can be built on are few and far between. Around 95 per cent of the state is unsuitable for building purposes. Geographically speaking, most of Vorarlberg is in the catchment area of the Rhine. It borders on Tyrol, South Germany, Switzerland, and the Principality of Liechtenstein. Its capital, Bregenz, lies on Lake Constance. Economically, Vorarlberg is one of the most productive industrial regions in Austria. Today the state is dominated by precision engineering and electronics as well as tourism and has the highest export ratio in the country. The rapid development of this agricultural region into a successful economic area has also triggered a distinctive shift in its architecture.

Nature and Sustainability

Besides innovative building materials like reinforced concrete, fair-faced concrete, and glass, wood, loam, brick, and recycled materials are also used. Particular attention is paid to ecological aspects and to construction biology as well as to building strategies that preserve resources and minimize greenhouse gases, to low-energy and passive housing technologies, and to innovative timber construction. The wood that is used for this comes almost entirely from Vorarlberg. Here one lives with nature, conscious of its importance as a basis for life and a supplier of resources. The existence of forty landscape protection areas in an area of around 24.000 hectares are testament to this. A third of the state, almost 100.000 hectares, is covered with forest. Around 80 per cent of its energy supply comes from renewable sources.


Architecture is a key factor in determining the value, status, and development of the cultural landscape that has evolved in the region. Coming up with ideas and allowing them to grow as a means to foster innovation requires space and cooperative interaction. The fact that Vorarlberg is now attracting worldwide attention for its building culture is due not only to the state's liberal building regulations but also to ambitious architectural designers and experimentally minded clients. For this was the only way that it was possible for architecture in Vorarlberg to cover all areas of life, for attractive living spaces to be collectively designed, and for a higher quality of life to be created for everyone.

The Evolution of Building Culture

Vorarlberg has a comparatively high density of top-quality architecture, including many public squares, educational buildings, and social housing. The building and housing culture reflects aesthetic considerations as well as long-term factors like respect for the environment and future generations. In Vorarlberg the commitment to high-grade architecture is also supported by commissions from the public sector, by a young crowd that does not shy away from the links with the architecture that has evolved, by development and youth work, and by a correspondingly open-minded, interested population. Many municipal buildings and private houses in Vorarlberg have been planned by architects and this continues to be the case.