On 21-22 January 2018, the European Ministers of Culture and stakeholders from the heritage and cultural sectors, including the Architects Council of Europe (ACE), attended a conference dedicated to Baulkultur at the invitation of the President of the Swiss Confederation. On this occasion, they adopted a Declaration, which highlights the benefits of a high-quality Baukultur to society and pathways for promoting and achieving it in Europe.
Considering “a trend towards a loss of quality in […] the built environment” all over Europe, the Declaration underlines “the urgent need […] to develop new approaches to protecting and advancing the cultural values of the European built environment” as well as the need for “a holistic, culture-centred approach to the built environment and for a humanistic view of the way we collectively shape the places we live in”.
In response to current challenges, the conference participants put forward an ambitious vision for a high-quality Baukultur, understood as an approach to shaping our built environment that “actively builds social cohesion, ensures environmental sustainability, and contributes to the health and well-being of all”. This approach shall express the “application of conscious, well-debated design to every building and landscaping activity, prioritising cultural values over short term economic gain” and fulfil “functional, technical and economic requirements, but also satisfies people’s social and psychological needs”.
Benefits of a high-quality Baukultur for the society are manifold: it “fosters vibrant and mixed-used neighbourhoods […] provides sustainable living conditions and strengthens social resilience by producing decent, affordable, and accessible housing […] supports sustainable transport and responsible land use […] promotes health and biodiversity […] and ultimately “adds economic value by creating higher-quality and more durable assets and favourable conditions for economic prosperity within society”.
Signatories point out that a high-quality Baukultur “must form part of the relevant legal instruments. The central goal of high quality for the whole built environment, including cultural heritage, must be made obligatory in all activities with a spatial impact. The requirement for high quality must be considered at the same level as economic or technical interests.”
During the conference, the ACE President, Mr Georg Pendl expressed support for this initiative and recalled that the concept of Baukultur concerns everything that happens in the built environment – including the procedures during the planning processes and the protection and re-use of our built heritage. He underlined the importance of involving citizens through participative design processes in order to generate ownership.
Noting that cheap offers cannot achieve quality and sustainability, he stressed that a high-quality Baukultur requires a regulatory framework that favours quality instead of price. Improving public procurement rules, so they better take into account quality considerations, is therefore of paramount importance. G. Pendl finally underlined that the principles of Baukultur should apply not only to iconic projects, but to projects of all scales.
The Architects’ Council of Europe is committed to promoting the ideas and principles of high-quality Baukultur in its sphere of influence, in particular vis-à-vis the EU institutions, and looks forward to continuing this discussion throughout the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage.
Find more information about the conference on https://davosdeclaration2018.ch.