The house on Bezau’s main street is well known throughout the valley. At first, there were cows in the barn, later on some sculptures, and until recently it housed the photography shop run by the Hiller family for decades. Today, however, the grand old Bregenzerwald residence has now been renovated and rebuilt. But even before renovations began, architects Markus Innauer and Sven Matt had already moved into the erstwhile photo shop on the ground floor.
The legendary Leopold Kaufmann’s first contract
Generations of villagers and valley folk have pressed their noses against the glass of the shop’s large storefront, a high window facing the street, in order to study the latest photographs. These photos were taken at family celebrations, village festivals, first communions, baptisms, funerals, hay harvests, carnival parades, masquerade balls and ski races. The photographs were taken in both black and white and in colour. More recently, there was a slide projector displaying images on a screen in rapid succession. It was like a chronicle of the valley’s events behind glass. In the mid-1990s, the photo shop was shuttered for good. Its display window, however, is still there today. Instead of photographs, there are now architectural models on display – on fine wooden shelves that have been lovingly restored, as have all the other furnishings of the former shop. The room and furnishings date from the early 1960s. At that time, the photographer Hedwig Berchtel-Hiller had commissioned the young Bezau architect Leopold Kaufmann to perform the remodelling. The incorporation of a photo studio and shop into the former stable was to become the architect’s breakthrough first creation. Kaufmann helped shape building culture in Vorarlberg until his death in 2019 in addition to supporting its development as a critical observer. The design of the photo studio had led to several heated discussions in 1963: Above all, the all-glass exterior of the former stable wall was perceived as very unusual for the valley. However, the excitement would soon die down.