A panorama of the actors, policies and tools promoting high-quality Architecture and Baukultur as the new political ethos in Europe

With the support of the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, the Architect's Council of Europe is releasing a new publication presenting the findings of a pan-European survey on architectural policies, providing an overview of the origins and spread of architectural policies across the continent, main institutional actors involved, the progress of implementation efforts, tools and initiatives promoting design quality, and examining the resulting impact on urban design governance processes. 

Recognition has been growing in recent decades for the role a high-quality built environment can play in economic growth, social inclusion, climate resilience and cultural dynamism. In order to try and harness this potential, several policy initiatives have been created across Europe with a strong emphasis on a holistic culture-centre approach that highlights the key role of design quality as the basis of ‘integrated planning and design processes for every man-made shaping of the built environment in European cities’ (EU, 2020).  

In this context, a growing number of European countries and regions have been developing architecture and Baukultur policies setting high aspirations for the quality of architecture and the built environment. Reflecting the wide diversity of cultures across the EU, some member states have adopted comprehensive policies setting up a wide range of initiatives while others have approved national legislation addressed to clients and stakeholders or developed policies within a sectoral policy domain. As part of their policies, several countries have implemented new approaches to the governance of design. Some established dedicated services to monitor policy execution and enable the delivery of initiatives/actions or created new cultural organizations to disseminate and promote a culture of design quality. Despite their differences, all the approaches share the will to promote well-designed living environments and high-quality places.  

"The ACE publication on ‘Architectural Policies in Europe’ provides an updated panorama of the actors, policies, tools and initiatives promoting high- quality architecture and Baukultur as the new political ethos in Europe. The architecture policies are developed and delivered by the public sector in alliance with a wide range of institutions, where the architectural professional organisations are deeply involved and supportive of a better quality of life for everyone." stated Ruth Schagemann, ACE President.  

“Looking at the policies implementation progress at state/regional level, despite the differences between them, architectural polices are having substantial impacts on design governance processes, namely improving policy coordination, facilitating cross-sectoral collaboration across and beyond public administrations, and enabling a diversity of initiatives promoting best practices and fostering a placemaking culture” highlighted Joao Bento, author of the publication.

About the author: João Bento is an architect and urbanist graduated by the Lisbon School of Architecture (2006). He was awarded a PhD in urbanism by the Bartlett School of Planning, University College London (2017). Currently, João is a Research Fellow at the Lisbon School of Architecture developing the research project: "Soft-power in the governance of urban design: the role and impact of informal tools for improving spatial quality in cities across Europe".  From 2019-2021, João participated as a Research Fellow at the Bartlett School of Planning - UCL on the international research project URBAN MAESTRO, coordinated by UN-HABITAT together with the Bouwmeester Maitre Architecte (BMA) of Brussels, that resulted in the book ‘Urban Design Governance’, published by UCL Press (2023).  João recently co-organized a workshop on architectural policies with ESPON and the Croation Ministry of Physical Planning and Construction (Zagreb, 2023). He has been a guest speaker in several international conferences and meetings (Amsterdam, Brussels, Budapest, Copenhagen, Hague, Lisbon, London, Luxembourg, Prague, Paris, Osijek, Tallin, Vilnius, Zagreb).

Disclaimer: The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made.

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