The first Creative Villages Conference took place in Zwischenwasser/Vorarlberg from 26th to 28th of April 2013, dealing with building culture and energy efficiency. 60 participants of five central European municipalities came together to discuss successful strategies and gained first-hand insights in how Zwischenwasser dealt with these topics.

Participation and Building Culture

Prior to and together with the Creative Villages Conference, a two-day conference of the persons responsible for building culture in the administrations of the county districts of Austria was held in Zwischenwasser. Participants of the CVC mingled with these experts for the Friday Program: In an afternoon-excursion, innovative buildings like schools, a home for elderly people, a little shop (“Dorfladen”) and private houses in Zwischenwasser and its neighboring municipalities Röthis and Klaus were visited. Architects and project managers spoke about form, function and development of the buildings, that are not only of high architectural quality but also innovative in the aspect of energy efficiency.

In the opening lecture, Professor Adrian Meyer of the ETH Zürich spoke about the aspects of architecture in society and the interaction of these components.

On Saturday morning the mayor of Zwischenwasser, Josef Mathis, held a speech regarding the development of building culture in Zwischenwasser. The architectural advisory board plays a key role in this best-practice-approach and has consulted the municipality for over 20 years in architectural questions. Another presentation reported about the “vor ort ideenwerkstatt”, which took place two weeks earlier in Zwischenwasser. In this participation project the inhabitants discussed how a municipality should deal with its free building space with regard to Zwischenwasser’s areal development concept.

Participation of the public in energy issues

Inspired through the role model Zwischenwasser, the municipality Illingen in Germany also wants to introduce an architectural advisory board. Moreover the idea of participation of the public and green mobility proved popular. Especially the lecture of Manfred Hellrigl, head of the “Büro für Zukunftsfragen” who spoke about the model of “Bürgerräte”, was impressive. A “Bürgerrat” is a form of public participation where 12-16 randomly selected citizens develop solutions to a given topic. This form of public participation is already established in the state constitution of Vorarlberg as a form of democracy.

Through the day the participants developed new concepts and solutions for problems regarding their own municipalities. The wide range of topics includes local public traffic in rural areas, carbon dioxide reduction and the raising of awareness regarding building culture. The participants were able to benefit through the exchange of ideas and best practice examples and were able to gain a new viewpoint on their own problems in their municipalities.

Learn from each other

Even before the conference a lecture by Joseph Mathis, at that time mayor of Zwischenwasser, inspired a Romanian community, Săliște, to carry out the first architectural competition in rural areas of Romania, which was quite revolutionary for Romania. Therefore a delegation from Săliște has come to the Creative Village Conference to learn even more intense from Zwischenwasser. The mayor of Săliște, Horațiu Răcuciu, is now motivated to change the spatial planning with the aid of public participation in Săliște. Josef Mathis is convinced that the conference will lead to new, innovative ideas and that the conference was able to transfer the knowledge of Zwischenwasser on a European level.

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