innauer matt's tiny alpine chapel is perched along a scenic austrian meadow

innauer matt's tiny alpine chapel is perched along a scenic austrian meadow

austrian architecture firm innauer matt architekten (IMA) has nestled its compact chapel in the bregenzerwald alpine valley of western austria. wirmboden is a ‘vorsäß’ (meadow) at the foot of the steep north face of the valley’s kanisfluh mountain, owned and managed by a collective of farmers. almost every meadow has its own little chapel, or at least some designated space for the celebration of masses and the traditional consecration of the farmers and their livestock.

with the help of every  member of the wirmboden collective, the chapel was built without any help from third parties



in 2012, the local chapel of wirmboden was torn apart by an avalanche. while the structures destroyed by the avalanche would be rebuilt, the challenge faced by IMA was finding a consensus on the construction of a new chapel. alternatively, the clients, a collective of farmers each with their own opinions, faced a challenged of an interpersonal nature rather than an architectural one. ultimately, the chapel is a symbol for the collective spirit of this very diverse group of people. it was the farmers who negotiated, conceived, planned, and eventually built this chapel over the course of three years.

the mountain chapel naturally complements the ensemble of alpine huts



the simple, basic outline of the new chapel refers to the most original form of sacred buildings and highlights the characteristics of this special place and its use. according to tradition, the walls are made from stones collected around the place and tamped concrete. rough split shingles cover the steep truss, and a narrow wooden entry leads into the small oratory. the bell space above the entrance are made from german spruce (sometimes called hazel spruce), a type of wood that is normally used for violins and guitars for  its special acoustic qualities.

livestock is driven to graze on mountain pastures in the warmer months

the alpine hut is where neighbors meet casually, and where gatherings and celebrations are held

the space above the entrance are made from german spruce

a narrow wooden entry leads into the small oratory

memorial photo cards are placed in the narrow spaces between rafters, commemorating loved ones

diffused daylight falls through an opening in the roof ridge in blasted stainless steel

the structure is a solid construction from collected stones and tamped concrete

an areal view of the little chapel

wirmboden is a meadow at the foot of the steep north face of the valley’s kanisfluh mountain



project info:


object: wirmboden alpine chapel
location: 6882 schnepfau, vorarlberg, österreich
client: wirmboden collective of transhumance farmers
architects: innauer-matt architekten, 6870 bezau
statics: merz kley partner / gordian kley, 6850 dornbirn
construction supervision: karlheinz gasser, 6882 schnepfau
development period: 2013 – 2016
construction: 04 – 08 – 2016
floor space: 6 sqm oratory
construction: solid construction from collected stones and tamped concrete, truss with narrow spruce rafters fit for heavy snow load, ridges in blasted stainless steel; single glazing, blasted roofing in rough split shingles single-glazed altar window in light blue interior benches, bell frame, entrance door in solid german spruce fixtures, keys, handles, cross in blasted stainless steel
floors: hand-smoothed concrete with collected flat stones

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