Type of residents
Asylum seekers and asylum seekers whose application was rejected
Number of residents
Living space per person (m²/person)
Andreas Postner, Konrad Duelli, Hermann Kaufmann; partner: Voralberger Holzbaukunst
Communal housing associations and cooperatives
Local wood construction companies
Building as an integration exercise.
There are 96 communities in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg. About 4,000 people are in search of housing, and the asylum seekers – in Austria the number is increasing daily – only serve to aggravate the situation. The concept developed by three local architects Andreas Postner, Konrad Duelli and Hermann Kaufmann in cooperation with the Vorarlberg timber construction industry, has an alluring role model effect. They propose houses made of wood: equally suitable for refugees and local residents.
The initiators see housing construction not only as the fulfilment of demand, but as a basic integration element. According to their reasoning, the contracts could be distributed among about 60 Vorarlberg timber construction companies. That will strengthen the regional economy and acceptance for the new residents in the population. Designs already exist for building typologies in the country and in the city. In rural areas no more than 25 to 30 persons should live in two two-storey houses. Three-storey houses for 50 and more persons are proposed in denser urban agglomerations. Here again, however, the number of refugees to be integrated in one location should not exceed 30 persons. The majority of apartments will go to Vorarlberg apartment seekers. The initiators also recommend laying out gardens which can be tended by the refugees together with the local population, permaculture initiatives and local fruit and gardening associations. Furniture (mainly tables and chairs) originating from local recycling initiatives will be repaired and restored by the residents themselves.
With the instrument of the building rights contract, an agreement for a specific term between the developer and property owner, the support of dioceses, parishes, state, municipalities and housing cooperatives has already been won. After five to ten years – depending on requirements – the right to use these buildings as social housing for first-time or emergency accommodation reverts to the municipality. After fifty years the property is returned to the original owner. The Bishop of Vorarlberg, Benno Elbs, has already offered to provide suitable land. The State of Vorarlberg is likewise supporting the project with an amendment to the conditions of subsidy.
The standards applicable to housing subsidies have already been simplified for the construction of the first 150 dwellings. For the architects this means that they can build to the minimum standards applicable in Austria and, for example, dispense with underground parking. They need provide only minimal parking spaces and erect a kind of shell construction, e.g. with varnished OSB panels and visible installations which the residents can finish themselves. The exchange of skills and related interaction promote integration.
The project launch involved serious communication work for the architects, who had to demonstrate solutions and overcome prejudices. But that is precisely what the project is about. Although individual aspects of their proposal have already been practised elsewhere, it is the combination of ideas which are tailored to the special needs of the region that make the idea so convincing and transferable to other locations.
Text: Friederike Meyer,