On 4 May the Architects Council of Europe (ACE) organised a public conference in Innsbruck (Austria) to examine the concept of quality architecture and discuss ways of assessing and ensuring that quality is actually achieved in the built environment.

Last year, European Ministers of Culture, along with other institutions and NGOs, highlighted in the Davos Declaration “a trend towards a loss of quality in … the built environment …  all over Europe”, characterised by “the trivialisation of construction, the lack of design values, … the growth of faceless urban sprawl and irresponsible land use, the deterioration of historic fabric, and the loss of regional traditions and identities”.

Yet, as stated in the Declaration, a high-quality built environment makes a “crucial contribution … to achieving a sustainable society, characterised by a high quality of life, cultural diversity, individual and collective well-being, social justice and cohesion, and economic efficiency”.

In November 2018, the Council of the EU decided to create an expert group on High-quality Architecture and Built Environment for Everyone under the 2019-2022 Work Plan for Culture 2019-2022. Experts designated by EU Member States will exchange best practices with respect to “multi-disciplinary and participatory governance models contributing to social inclusion and sustainable development of neighbourhoods”, putting the focus on “architecture as a discipline that encompasses the right balance between cultural, social, economic, environmental and technical aspects for the common good”.

We are happy to read such a quote from an official European institution and want to build on this.

The creation of this expert group represents a huge step forward for the architectural profession in Europe. The group shall start its work 2020, using the open method of coorindation (OMC) and this year should be used to define topics for its work. The Innsbruck conference aims to place one topic on the table.

While there is a broad consensus on the fact that high-quality built environments have positive impacts on people’s everyday lives, the characteristics of a high-quality architecture need discussion and definition.

The conference brought together architects, academics and experts from local public authorities, national governments and the EU institutions in order to discuss existing tools, policies and good practices that help to ensure that high-quality architecture is actually achieved in the built environment. In particular, the following questions will be discussed:

What does high-quality architecture mean? How can it be defined? What are its main features?
What tools and policies are needed at local / regional / national levels to assess and guarantee high-quality in the built environment?
Ultimately, this conference is designed to be a first opportunity to think about the key questions that the Council’s expert group will have to investigate and to place quality and quality assessment as an important topic for discussion.

Presentations are available on the event webpage

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