Accepted paper:

The "Fehnhaus": symbol of home and homeland?


Michael Schimek (Museumsdorf Cloppenburg - Lowersaxon Open-air Museum)

Paper short abstract:

Based on interviews with building owners, the paper discusses the question to which extend the "Fehnhaus", a new created dwelling house that refers to a traditional farmhouse in the moor areas of Lower Saxony, becomes a symbol for a special form of dwelling, a particular region or a certain milieu.

Paper long abstract:

Since several years buildings in Northern Germany are influenced by the style of historism again: In addition to lattice windows and edge rafters certain brick wallings, columns and gables are decorating more and more buildings in cities and the countryside. In between this supraregional trend a new building pattern was created in Northwest-Lower Saxony: the "Fehnhaus" (fen house). It ties up to the traditional building pattern of the "Gulfhaus", a farmhouse which includes dwelling, barn and stable beneath one roof and that was built until the 1960s in East Frisia and the neighbouring districts of Emsland and Oldenburg. Since then modern patterns, developed by engineers, are dominating rural building. However, during the 1990s the Gulfhaus has been re-introduced as a special form of dwelling building. This form orientates itself by a small version of Gulfhaus which was common between 1800 and 1950 in the fen settlements in the moor areas. The modern Fehnhaus refers only to the outside appearance of the Gulfhaus but not to its construction or use. Why do house builders build houses with a form rather inconvenient for dwelling purposes? Why do they accept additional work and expenses in order to realize their Fehnhaus? And which meaning has their Fehnhaus to them? The paper tries to answer these questions refering to interviews with the building owners. It will discuss to which extend the Fehnhaus becomes a symbol for a special form of dwelling, a particular region or a certain milieu.

panel P009
Symbolism in vernacular architecture, vernacular architecture as symbol: new examples and perspectives