Like many villages in the central Bregenzerwald (Bregenz Forest), the municipality of Mellau in western Austria nestles in the valley of the crystal-clear, opalescent Bregenzer Ache. The mountain river, which has its source at an altitude of 2,400 metres, runs through the region – sometimes leisurely, sometimes as white water – to finally flow into Lake Constance near Bregenz.
More than the river, however, the village of 1300 inhabitants is dominated by the Kanisfluh, the landmark of the Bregenzerwald. This striking mountain massif rises steeply to over 2000 metres to the east of the village.
The imposing mountain range is virtually always in view in this part of the valley – at sunrise as a black, backlit wall of shadow at first, then majestically watching over the community in the course of the day as the sun and clouds alternate; finally, in the light of sunset, shimmering from pink through all shades of red and gradually fading into the dark blue of the night.
Those who stay in the Tempel 74 Apartments, the new project of hostess Evi Haller and her husband, master builder Jürgen Haller, which they have realized with neighbor family Felder, can hardly fail to experience the multifaceted richness of the natural spectacle again and again.
Be active or relax and enjoy – each to his own
The location at the interface between the rather gentler, northern hill and mountain ranges and the alpine zone on the southern flank of the valley is an ideal starting point for nature lovers and sports enthusiasts alike.
Regardless of your physical condition and depending on the mood of the day, numerous walking trails, hiking tours or cycling routes are waiting to be explored – from leisurely to challenging at the high alpine level.
In the winter season, the well-developed network of pistes for downhill skiers and the cross-country ski trails come into focus.
Those who want to actively explore nature can safely do without their own vehicle. With it safely parked in the hotel’s underground garage, you can forget about it and instead grab your sports equipment from the ski and bike room and head out – into gentle or rugged landscapes that will fascinate you until sunset (and long after you holiday is over).
Good Fairies – perfect hosts
Those who prefer to take it easy start the day with breakfast from hostess Evi Haller.
This lavish, high-quality breakfast fulfils your every wish, but it makes an early start rather unlikely. However, when you do set off – there is no rush – you are well fortified for the day. And in the hours that follow you can work off those deliciously acquired calories.
Only extreme early risers can hear the good fairies who tiptoe quietly through the stairwell and arrange these morning delicacies in front of the apartment doors. Evi Haller prepares the cake stands and bread baskets well before school starts and is often accompanied on her morning rounds by daughter Leni or son Luca, who also obviously enjoy the delivery service.
While on the subject, the hostess: whenever you need Evi Haller, she is always there to lend a sympathetic ear and to offer wonderful tips.
If you return from an excursion in the afternoon, a homemade cake and Evi’s powers of persuasion are waiting for you. In view of the culinary delights, you don’t really need to be persuaded – unless of course you think you have to stick to a strict diet. She is also happy to serve coffee or tea on request – either outside in the sun or inside in the parlour, depending on the weather.
In passing, you can hear other guests enthusing about their day’s experiences or find yourself in conversation with your hosts. And all of a sudden you feel you are in good hands.
With their open, authentic and warm manner and their individual all-round service, Evi and Jürgen wonderfully convey their understanding of hospitality: personal, direct and sincere. It soon feels more like a friendly relationship than a service of any kind.
On the other hand, those who prefer to be quieter and more secluded are discreetly looked after in the background – each to their own!
As we know, happy guests make happy hosts. There is no need for theory here; the tone is down-to-earth and sensitive, always on an equal footing.
Since Evi comes from the region and her husband Jürgen, the master builder, was born in the village, they both know the region like the back of their hands – no question about architecture, nature, worthwhile excursion destinations, sports tours or gastronomic recommendations goes unanswered. As a guest, you spend such a fulfilled, carefree time here that – of course, unfortunately – it flies by far too quickly.
New building in old tradition: We instead of Me-Me-Me
The feeling of well-being is also a result of the master builder’s philosophy. Jürgen Haller’s architectural designs are therefore characterised by the fact that they are fundamentally solid – in the sense that high quality is oriented towards the traditional in a modern form and coherently develops it further.
This is also the case in Temple 74, where the two buildings adapt to the existing, spatial environment of the village in terms of volume and scale. And at the same time further define it.
The entire project can confidently be described as well-tempered – it manages the balancing act of being both a soloist and a team player. Thus it is, albeit under his very own auspices, part of a long tradition of building projects for which Jürgen Haller’s architecture firm has already received many awards.
To fit into an established ensemble and yet stand out at the same time is a fine art that requires a great deal of intuition and experience. This is visibly evident in the reaction of the holidaymakers strolling past. They clearly notice the house. It stands out without being perceived as obtrusive or even irritating, but as an inspiration of what traditional building can look like today.
Speaking of tradition: a small, seemingly unimportant detail explains quite vividly the philosophy adhered to in the interaction with the village: a historically focal point of the hamlet is the central running well, which used to be of great significance as a drinking trough for cattle. Some years ago, it was rebuilt in a modernised form – also as a symbol of the vibrant community around it. The meadow on which it stands is not only communal property but is also maintained jointly. Village cohesion is alive and well.
The builder’s self-assessment as a traditionalist can also be found in many other details. Traditional building forms and elements were further developed in the construction process and implemented to a high-quality standard, but always remaining firmly grounded. His motto “The best solution is always different” is also emblematic – each architectural project is analysed with precise accuracy on a case-by-case basis. In the case of Tempel 74, the process ranges from the historical and social spatial structure to the furnishing details of the individual apartments. These now convey an alpine living culture that is modern and at the same time has the charm of yesteryear.
Elegant, high-quality, pleasantly unpretentious: the feeling of good living
The ensemble consists of two houses, connected by an elegantly curved concrete span, consisting of the entrance and lounge area.
The parlour, which has always been a central part of Alpine living culture, has been reinterpreted in a modern and cosy way: corner bench, credence and seating furniture in the French antique tradition of the canapé, as well as the stove as a central fireplace stand for typical Bregenzerwald gemütlichkeit. These are joined by a cooking island and the architecture firm’s library of building culture with a focus on architecture, building, living, crafts and design, as well as interesting facts about the Bregenzerwald and its special features.
If necessary, the multifunctional room can also be transformed into a media area for seminars in no time at all, without losing its charm.
You can either live in House A, the faithful reconstruction of a farmhouse originally located on the same site. The typical box and rhomboid windows and the traditional round shingles are characteristic of the rural artisan style. House B, on the other hand, is a new building that continues the local building tradition in a freer interpretation. It’s transparent wooden curtain, which plays with open and closed façade surfaces, provides a notable contrast.
Both outside and inside, local types of wood such as spruce and oak dominate, and the floor covering is sanded screed from the sand of the adjacent Bregenzer Ache river.
Both houses have five apartments each and their own sauna with relaxation area. With one exception, the units are between 50 – 60 square metres in size and are suitable for two adults and a maximum of two children. If you need something more spacious, ask for apartment B5: it covers the entire top floor of the new house and offers 100 square metres of comfort for up to four adults and two children.
Guests – both new and regulars from the Mesmerhaus have enthusiastically embraced the house, which opened in December 2019. So it’s no surprise that the “Temple” promptly landed in our “Best of 2020” in the category Best Guest Feedback. Many readers emphasise the successful combination of regionality, modernity, cordiality and a pinch of luxury; some even enthusiastically describe it as a “temple for the eye and the soul”.
For those who can’t get enough of architecture, Jürgen Haller’s guided tours of the extraordinary building culture of the Voralberg are highly recommended. Exclusively for house guests, not to be missed!
By Ulrich Stefan Knoll, May 2021