The Stube: A Home for Purists
‘Observe the shapes built by farmers. They are the physical manifestation of our ancestral wisdom. Look also for the reasoning behind these shapes. If technological advances have made improvements possible, then of course these improvements should be applied. Otherwise, we should rely on the old ways. For the truth is hundreds of years old, and we are more intimately connected with it rather than the lies walking alongside us’. (Adolf Loos, Regeln für den, der in den Bergen baut, 1913)
‘Herein in die gute Stube’ is an Austrian welcome, a way of saying ‘Come in and make yourself at home’ or the literal translation ‘Come into the parlour’. But what is the true meaning of these words? And what is this Stube?
We contemplated the history of the Alpine Stube and resolved to dust off the term and to use it contemporarily, disengaging it from any leftover connotations of kitsch.
We studied the background and considered the future viability of the word Stube. The resulting concept is ‘stuben21’, which will demonstrate that modernity and tradition are not contradictory. One is simply the continuation of the other, with a contemporary permutation.
As we think of this room, the Stube, the words home and homeland spring to mind. Ernst Bloch, author of Principle of Hope, wrote of a homeland being that which appears to all in childhood and wherein no one ever was. So, homeland is not something that was, but something that will be, and therefore it is something that we must first create.
As we see it, something very similar is true of the Stube. Just as with the homeland Bloch wrote of, the Stube must first be created. How? A radical reinterpretation must be made and the term radical (derived from radix, or root) already heralds the direction for us to follow. The Stube, has now been freed from all mannerisms and superfluous detail, leading us to the concept stuben21.
‘stuben21’ aims to reinterpret the essence of the traditional and very simple pine clad parlour, once an inviting haven for the indigent people of the Alpine region. ‘stuben21’ is the result of clear and timeless design, creating a harmonious balance between simplicity, function and comfort. In terms of design ‘stuben21’ makes clear that comfort need not be tawdry; design need not be cold. Thus we have created a form of the Alpine Stube that we are confident will appeal to the urban people of today.
The Stone-age man sought a secluded cave in which his clan could gather. His needs were to make a fire, to eat, to sit with his family, to sleep and to be secure. Thus the cave can be considered the archetype of the Stube. As stated by the eminent architectural psychologist Helgi-Jon Schweizer ‘Human beings need a retreat, to search out a place ‘where one feels at home, comfortable and safe’, and ‘The epitome of contentedness is the cozy warmth of the fireplace in a log cabin buffeted by snowy storms’. This is an Alpine picture of contentment, which Schweizer paints for us.
From the beginning, the Stube was a multi functional room in Alpine building and by its very nature, a meeting place. The Stube has always been the centre of the house, the focus of the family structure and convey a very special feeling of warmth and therefore were considered to be the epitome of Alpine comfort and hospitality. The Stube was the largest room within the farmhouse and most of the windows were positioned to allow the sunlight to flood in. The Stube and the kitchen were the only rooms that were kept really warm. This is where the family gathered to eat, knead bread, spin wool, sing, to talk about their daily toil, to rest a little on the stove side bench, to pray and to grieve.
The interior of the building was made of solid wood; it was functional but rather austere with nothing superfluous. The benches ran along two walls, either with or without armrests and there would be a large table and plenty of chairs. Sometimes there would be a chest, which would be pushed up against one of the walls as the middle of the room was empty. The larger farmhouses featured wood paneling in various designs and finely hand decorated ceilings.
Humans recognized very early on that community is a crucial aspect of existence and they later felt the need to come together to exchange ideas outside of their own four walls. This need, over the course of time, was fulfilled by emerging public meeting places, such as the tavern (another kind of Stube) and countryside inns.
And thus, over the course of time, the Stube became ‘an intimate place and a public place’ as expressed by folklorists Sebastian Marseiler and Hans Gschnitzer. And the story continues, as the familiarity and straightforwardness of the Stube has made it, in the words of Marseilerand Gschnitzer, ‘one of the most important architectural creations in the history of central European domestic culture’ (Die Stube. Ein Platz für alle Tage, Bolzano 2002).
The Stube is a place of retreat and a place of community, which has become even more essential in today’s hectic world. In short, it is the heart of the Alpine lifestyle.
Peter Daniel/Nicole Horn