Vernacular architecture comprises a vast variety of construction forms that have developed regionally over the centuries by trial and error. In adapting to the available resources – like building materials, means of transport, technologies, and skills – and based on social and cultural life worlds, vernacular architecture has produced a highly differentiated repertoire of optimized house and settlement patterns.
Especially the Alpine Space is demanding a minute and intelligent adaptation to the environment, resulting from its extremes in topography, wind, snow, rain, sun and shade, its danger zones and movement routes. Additionally influences resulting from farming – like keeping farm land clear or agricultural structures of space and time – have shaped the efficiency of alpine settlements widely.
In addressing vernacular architecture today, we have to bear in mind that this tradition was interrupted in the 20th century and is no longer directly available. Nevertheless it is able to give us valuable advice for mastering current challenges; these may be high requirements for energy efficiency, handling of extreme events resulting from climate change, or massive modification of landscapes.
So the vernacular architectures of the Alpine Space today moves into focus in new ways:
The preservation of historical monuments as well as of completely ordinary buildings is – despite of all difficulties in usage and energetic renovation – getting more and more popular, as these buildings are regarded to be central elements of regional authenticity; besides their reutilisation is by itself ecologically useful.
The rich display of vernacular architecture in the Alps constitutes a highly differentiated fund of technologies for climatically optimized construction. Their implicit knowledge can be capitalized as an innovative factor for current planning and building as well as for local and regional cycles of natural resources and human skills.
AlpBC and AlpHouse are projects of the European Union (EU) in cooperation with the Working Group of Alpine Countries (ArgeAlp), lead by the Chamber of Trade and Crafts for Munich and Upper Bavaria (HWK)