The Farmhouse Research project examines both the history of rural architecture and the life stories of the houses’ inhabitants, highlighting the impact of economic and social circumstances. The research material is held by the Swiss Open-Air Museum’s archive and is available to view by prior appointment.
In 1919, the Swiss Society for Folklore Studies created the Institute for Housing and Human Settlement Research. In 1944, the Institute initiated the “Farmhouse Research in Switzerland” project as a way of providing work for unemployed civil engineers and architects. The aim was that they would devote a few years to documenting key rural buildings in Switzerland and then publish the findings in a suitable format.
While funding from the cantons allowed initial inventories to be drawn up, comprehensive academic evaluation only began in 1960 when financial support was made available by the Swiss National Science Foundation. The first volume in the “Farmhouses of Switzerland” series – on Grisons – was published in 1965. Other books followed at ever shorter intervals. The series of 39 publications was completed in 2019 with a volume on Solothurn.
The ethnological research focused on traditional rural buildings and settlements and on historic and contemporary aspects of farming life. Using an inventory of rural residential and farm buildings, researchers examined the way the buildings were constructed, their history and how they were used and furnished by their occupants. Additional archival information on building laws, ownership and economic conditions helped provide more in-depth insight into the development of rural construction.
The inventories and archival research resulted in extensive documentation, which included descriptions, photographs and sketches. Subsequent academic analysis led to the publications that make up the “Farmhouses of Switzerland” series. Each volume is devoted to a particular region, a canton or even a combination of cantons. The publications focus on such aspects as the economic and socio-historical environment, house construction, the structure of the walls and roof, how the buildings have been used and furnished over the years, lifestyles and design. Detailed monographs highlight the stories of selected houses and occupants.
Individuals with a particular interest in this area, educational institutions and public authorities are welcome to view the extensive collections of maps, photographs and specialist books held in the Swiss Open-Air Museum’s archive. The materials serve as a valuable complement to the rural buildings from throughout Switzerland that are preserved and showcased at the museum in Ballenberg.
The individual publications in the “Farmhouses of Switzerland” series were published by the Swiss Society for Folklore Studies (now Empirical Cultural Studies Switzerland EKWS). They generally had a print run of 2,000 copies and are available in book stores.