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Farmhouse Research - an ethnological research project


Ethnologically oriented rural building research pertains to traditional buildings, building groups and settlements as well as to historical and current aspects of everyday farm life. An inventory of rural dwellings and agricultural buildings is taken and then investigated relative to design and building history as well as to how their inhabitants use and furnish them. Supplementary information from archives of building regulations, property ownership and economic factors add depth to the picture thus obtained of rural building form development.

This documentation as well as extensive plan material and photographic archives remain at the disposition of private persons, schools, universities and government offices. The individual volumes of the series "Die Bauernhäuser der Schweiz - Les maisons rurales de Suisse " (Farmhouses of Switzerland) are published by the Swiss Association for Ethnology, generally in editons of 2,000 copies and are available through local bookstores. By 2015 all thirty-seven volumes of the series should be completed.

Research project

Each research project basically comprises three phases: Inventarisation, Evaluation and Publication. Inventarisation includes not only dwellings and agricultural buildings, but also settlements forming typological building groups. Documentation consists of photos, plans and descriptions as well as supplementary information from relevant archives and literature. This documentation remains at the disposition of all interested private parties, schools, universities and government offices.

Financing and project status

The financing of the research work is shared among the twenty-six cantons of Switzerland plus the Swiss National Foundation for the Promotion of Scientific Research. As of 2002, the Swiss Association for Ethnology has published twenty-four volumes of the series "Farmhouses of Switzerland". Research on farmhouses is currently being performed in the cantons of Appenzell (Outer and Inner Rhoden), Bern (volumes 3 and 4, i.e. midland and jurassic regions), Geneva, Jura, Vaud (volumes 3 and 4, the plateau), Valais (volume 3), Schaffhausen and Neuchâtel. The canton Solothurn is not yet being processed.


In 1919 the Swiss Association for Ethnology founded the Institute for Dwelling and Community Research. In 1944 the Institute initiated the project "Farmhouse Research in Switzerland" (as an employment program for unemployed architects and technicians) with the goal of documenting the principal rural buildings of Switzerland and suitably publishing the documentation within only a few years. Inventories were carried out using finances provided by the cantons, but a c omprehensive scientific evaluation could not be made until 1960, when the financial support of the Swiss National Foundation for the Promotion of Scientific Research was secured. Since the first volume "Grisons" in the series "Farmhouses of Switzerland" was published in 1965, further volumes have followed at ever more frequent intervals (as of 2009: Grisons 2, Lucern, Ticino 1 and 2, Fribourg 1 and 2, Glarus, Zurich 1 through 3, Uri, Vaud 1 through 3, Valais 1, Bern 1, Obwalden / Nidwalden, Schwyz / Zug, Argovia 1 and 2, Thurgovia, Basel Country / Basel City, Valais 2 , Bern 2, Appenzell, Geneva). Farmhouse research is currently being actively pursued in three cantons for the next publications.

Regionalgruppe Alpen

Regionalgruppe Alpen is basicly a group of scientists which are interested in using, construction and architectural developpement of meanly rural buildings in the alpin area. Socio-economic and socio-legal backgrounds are as important as constructif aspects. About any second year the group is organising meetings and excursions. Results are intended to be published.

Year Manifestation
2009  "Rathäuser und kommunale Bauten"

Jahrestagung Arbeitskreis für Hausforschung 28. Sept. - 1.Okt.2009 in Lüneburg
2008 Architektur der Erholung - vom Bergwerk zum Kurort und Blockbauten des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts. Bad Reichenhall vom 6.-9. Oktober 2008. Jahrestagung des Arbeitskreis für Hausforschung (AHF), zusammen mit Regionalgruppen Bayern und Alpen des AHF.
2006 Congress of the Regionalgruppe Alpen on may 26th und 27th M2006 in St. Leonhard in Passeier, South Tyrol, Sandhof inn.
2004Excursions in the Valais, Obergesteln, Ernen, Mühlebach and Lötschental (Ferden und Kippel).
2002Congress in Schwyz with the subject: Kulturaustausch im ländlichen Hausbau. Inneralpin – Transalpin. The acts of this colloque were published in 2003.

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