Putting an end to six months of a participatory process in a congress being held every 20 years was a challenge, to say the least. The chosen date: Friday November 25th, to put the icing on the cake of a week filled with debates and conferences. The venue, a luxurious setting: the Sant Antoni Market… under (re)construction. A privileged venue, because few people had accessed it before. In the underground space where the closing ceremony of the Congress was held, archaeological remains from several eras could be observed in plain sight; such as the wall of the bastion of Sant Antoni - part of the old city walls - and, at the same time, part of the retaining wall - belonging to the second city walls -, both lit throughout the night.
November 25th will be remembered as the closing date of the 2016 Architecture Congress but, above all, because it laid the foundations for architecture in the coming years. The Dean of the Architects’ Association of Catalonia, Lluís Comerón, presented to 800 attendees the conclusions of the past six months of participatory process.
Comerón celebrated the fact that the Law on Architecture, currently being processed at the Parliament of Catalonia, makes it clear that “architecture involves general interest”, conveying its necessary social role in improving social good. This nature “must be shared by everyone, institutions, professionals and citizens, thus making it necessary to work with new broadcasting, teaching and communication tools”, the Dean stressed. Architects “are committed with the development of a sustainable, equitable and inclusive urban environment”, Comerón said.
The Dean of the Architects’ Association reviewed all the conclusions reached during the last week of synthesis at the congress, as a result of the events held and papers received during the past six months: the future of architecture. Thus, the Dean spoke about the quality of architecture contests, “the necessary instrument to preserve and improve public collective heritage”, which demands “quality and transparent processes, and the presence of qualified juries”; about the “potential of inter-municipal planning” to grant the quality and continuity of services affecting common land; about renovation as the “tool to grant future performance of buildings”, etc.
In his speech, the Dean also highlighted the global challenge faced in mitigating climate change, the New Urban Agenda and the right to housing, “which demands mechanisms to guarantee its access and stability”, as some of the main priorities. Lluís Comerón closed his statement and gave way to the Generalitat’s Prime Minister, who made the institutional speech of closure of the 2016 Architecture Congress.
The event was conducted by presenter - and architecture lover - Òscar Dalmau, who stressed the progress made by the Congress by including citizens in the debate on architecture: “there was a need to remove it from the bunker and taking it closer to the people”. According to Dalmau, architecture is the only art you cannot disengage from: “everything is architecture, since we are born in a hospital until we die in a cemetery, all throughout going to school, our homes, our workplaces…” and, therefore, we all must get involved in the spaces we inhabit.
Dalmau proceeded to give way to all the personalities taking part in the closure event, such as architect Dani Mòdol - also Architecture, Urban landscape and Heritage Councillor of the Barcelona City Hall; the Director of the 2016 Architecture Congress, Roger Subirà; and the three speakers: Juan Herreros - who spoke about architecture’s general interest and its values to improve cities, the land and people’s lives -, Enric Batlle - on land and public space development -, and Beatriz Colomina - speaking about architecture and the digital world.
The Congress, six months of participatory process
With and innovative format, the Architecture Congress helped to lay the foundations of current architecture and project them onto the future; showing a clear vocation of service to society. A total of more than 4,000 registered participants and more than 600 speakers took part in the 6 months of events, conferences, exhibitions, and round tables. More than 100 events took place in multiple venues and 120 papers focussing on various questions which have been subject to debate and reflection have been written. Moreover, 70 short interviews have been recorded. These answer, from various viewpoints, what the new challenges architecture if facing in the future are. During its last week, during the synthesis sessions, 115 speakers have been at COAC. They helped summarise all the issues addressed and determine a collective vision in the current times of change.
All the above-mentioned events and the material generated, allowed taking architecture closer to different institutions, administrations, organisations and also to the general public. The exposure of the Congress has been extremely positive in order to transmit the qualities and expertise of professionals and their commitment to sustainable development of cities and landscape.
The sector paid special attention to the global challenge of mitigating climate change, as well as to the generation of an Urban Agenda favouring more equitable, inclusive, resilient and healthy cities. Other prominent issues were the thinking of a new code of ethics as well as a legal framework allowing for quality and transparent processes for the improvement of urban environments, inter-municipal planning to influence shared grounds, or the new Law of Architecture - which will prove its general interest and its necessary social function.
The right to housing, and habitability quality were also considered. In addition to that, there were also considerations on interventions on built heritage and how to get it to currently provide the necessary performance, with maximum energy efficiency and minimum ecological footprint; as well as preserve its historical and cultural value. Architecture is based on specific requirements and needs, and evolves through ideas and creativity, towards new physical expressions combining technical expertise with beauty and emotion.
All the above must allow the architect collective to redirect its professional practice towards new priorities and in emerging areas, with new professional instruments and coming to terms with the paradigm shift that has recently taken place.