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City, Building, Planning, and Culture - The Need for Action

in Building Culture Policy

1. Catching up with other Countries - the "Federal Initiative for Architecture and Building
2. Building Cultural Engagement at the State Level
3. Opinion Formation, Knowledge Transfer, and Research Requirements
4. Building Culture: Orientations and Areas of Action
5. Building Culture in Concrete Terms and Perspectives for the Building Cultural Discourse
Recognition that Germany was lagging behind other European countries in architectural and
urban planning strategy prompted institutionalisation of the Federal Initiative for Architecture
and Building Culture in 2000. This lent further, nation-wide impetus to the public discussion on
architecture, "Stdtebau" (urban planning) and urban design, on planning and building. Building
culture has had little place in the general educational curriculum. Efforts to integrate the subject
in school instruction are accordingly all the more important. If building culture is to increase its
reach, active public relations is also indispensable. Public positioning on quality issues sharpens
critical faculties. The current controversy on the deficient usability of the new Berlin Academy of
the Arts, for example, provides a (negative) lesson in building culture. Attention must be directed
not only towards spectacular projects but also to everyday architecture. The focus of building
cultural activities is indisputably public space, its improvement and reinterpretation. In general,
building culture policy needs to play a more decisive role in defending urban planning interests,
identifying critical topics, addressing conflicts, providing early warning of building cultural
aberrations, and networking the relevant professions more closely.
Over the past ten years, the terminology of the debate on city planning, "Stdtebau" (urban
planning) and architecture has become permeated by references to "culture," bespeaking value
and use beyond mere utility. The expressions urban culture, building culture, and planning
culture mark quality claims for which no binding standards and conventions have been
developed. One reason has been the lack of a platform for discourse and dispute about what is to
count in architecture and urban planning as ideal and exemplary. The concept "building culture,"
in particular, has meanwhile become a commonplace of social consensus, almost a synonym for
quality. The "Federal Initiative for Architecture and Building Culture" launched in the autumn of
2000 by the Ministry of Transport, Building and Housing, now the Ministry for Transport,
Building and Urban Development", has given countrywide impetus to public discussion on
architecture, urban planning and design, on planning and building.
With effect from July 2004, the Federal Building Code was amended (paragraph 1 (6)(5)
BauGB) to include "building culture" as a concern to be taken into consideration in preparing
land-use plans. The building culture dimension also made an appearance in the 2004 Federal
Government Urban Planning Report published in spring 2005: "giving cities a 'face' - culture

makes the city" is listed as one of twelve "new tasks for urban development" (BMVBW 2005:
BBR, p. VI); and, although the "Initiative for Architecture and Building Culture" with its interest
in quality assurance and a model role for the federal government as project sponsor in building
cultural matters, the main part of the report still fails to take account of experience gathered in
this new cross-sectional policy area.
The main focus of the initiative is to promote greater public and private engagement for quality
in the built environment. In this context, "building culture" can be understood as formula for a
higher level of quality in urban design processes with respect to task formulation, the
development of solutions, the organisation of procedures and management of implementation,
and the actual results of building and planning, including upkeep and operation. Economic
structural change, demographic developments, and value change in society have transformed
underlying conditions: "downsizing and upgrading" are the focal strategies for urban
development without growth. Building cultural endeavours will therefore have to concentrate
increasingly on existing building stock and on dealing with vacant sites and buildings.

1. Catching up with other Countries - the "Federal Initiative

for Architecture and Building Culture"
Recognition that architectural and urban planning strategy in Germany is lagging behind other
European countries prompted institutionalisation of the Federal Initiative for Architecture and
Building Culture in the autumn of 2000. Backlog deficiencies included not only the lack of
societal positioning on the importance of architecture, urban planning, and urban design; there
was also a lack of programmatic, organisational, and physical infrastructure for nurturing more
widespread interest in architectural, development and planning issues, for activating the public
discourse, and for actually putting architectural and urban development quality assurance
strategies into effect.
The Netherlands, Finland, France, and Britain are considered to lead the field (Khler 2002, 126
ff.; Becker 2002, 665 ff.). As long ago as the 1990s they had put explicit national strategies on
architecture and urban planning policy in place - with a strong educational component. On the
initiative of the ministry of education, for example, Finland entrenched the right to a healthy and
liveable environment in its constitution in 1998, and set up a comprehensive national
architectural policy programme, which introduced a number of resolutions on educational issues
- the target groups being youth and young adults (Schwalfenberg 2004, 1). In France and the
Netherlands, too, architectural and urban planning issues have been part of the permanent
repertoire of cultural education in schools since the 1990s.
The Netherlands founded the "Nederlands Architectuurinstituut" (NAI) in 1993 in Rotterdam, an
institution that has won a high reputation. Every five years the Netherlands appoints a
rijksbouwmeester , a sort of advocate for quality and advisor to the government. At the local
level, numerous architectural centres ("architectuur lokaal") have been set up to serve as
platforms for public discussion. Under the 1977 Architecture Act, France established the

"Centres d'architecture, d'urbanisme et de l'environment" (CAUE), platforms for information and

consultation at the regional and local levels. In 2002, France set up a forum for architectural
debate in the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, the "Cit de l'architecture et du patrimoine," combining
the "Institut Franais d'Architecture" (IFA) founded in 1980 with a library and an institute for
urbanism. In 1999, the United Kingdom established a body to promote higher architectural and
urban planning quality, the "Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment" (CABE)
with the aim of "giving good architecture a place at the centre of the national self-image."
In Austria, too, architecture has been a subject of political discussion for a considerable time.
Institutions for communicating architecture have played a bigger role than in Germany; in 2001
there were already nine "houses of architecture" in the states of the federation sponsored by the
federal government. A broader debate on government architectural and building policy began in
Austria at about the same time as in Germany. The Vienna Architecture Centre, set up by the
Vienna municipality and the then Federal Ministry for Instruction, inaugurated its new premises
in the Museum Quarter in October 2001. In 2002, the most important architectural organisations
throughout Austria joined in establishing a platform for architecture and building culture, an
advisory and communication agency to promote awareness of building culture in politics and
among the public. In March 2004 a full-day meeting on "Architecture Policy and Building
Culture in Austria" demanded that the federal government assume greater responsibility in its
capacity as client, and called for the stabilisation of high educational standards and the
safeguarding of existing architectural institutions.(1)
In late 2002, the expert debate in Germany was dominated by the issue of a national position on
building culture. At the Cologne "Building Culture in Germany" congress in December 2001, a
short version of the (first) status report on the nationwide "Initiative for Architecture and
Building Culture" was presented with a far-reaching catalogue of recommendations and
measures; it was to be debated in the Bundestag in April 2002. The forward-looking, "urgent"
recommendation of the status report to set up a "Foundation for Building Culture" at the federal
level as a platform for "cultivating building culture in the public sphere" (Khler 2001, 54 f.;
Deutscher Bundestag 2002, 7) thus gained the public attention as a key infrastructural component
of the federal government initiative.
The idea of establishing a Federal Foundation for Building Culture was justified with reference
to the infrastructure available to other "awareness-dependent" policy areas. For example, the
environmental field has the Federal Foundation for the Environment (DBU) and the Federal
Environmental Agency; the conservation of historic monuments and heritage management have
the German National Committee for the Conservation of Historic Monuments; the arts have the
German Culture Council and the Cultural Foundation of the Federal Government. A Foundation
for Building Culture would "encourage communication, and it would provide independent
information - with the authority of federal legislation" (Ganser 2003, 5). As the central advisory
body of the foundation, the First Convention on Building Culture met in Bonn on 4/5 April 2003
to discuss its functions and organisation.
The first steps towards establishing the foundation were promising. On 15 December 2004, the
federal cabinet approved the bill for setting up the foundation and tabled it in Parliament. The
Bundestag adopted the bill unanimously on 12 May 2005, so that its establishment could have

been expected by the end of 2005. But just over a month later the bill was thrown out in the
upper chamber, the Bundesrat, where the Christian Democrats had the upper hand. Certain states
insisted on defining building culture as art, which falls under the cultural competence of the
states. The bill was sent to the mediation committee who adjourned the debate after two fruitless
attempts at finding a compromise. The second convention planned for November 2005 in Berlin
had to be postponed following the miscarriage of the project. The second report on the building
culture situation was, however, presented in the second half of 2005 (BMBW 2005:
After the general election and coalition negotiations in late 2005, new hope was found.
Establishment of a Federal Foundation for Building Culture was laid down in the coalition
agreement. On 3 May 2006, the federal cabinet approved the pertinent bill submitted by the
ministry. And the federal government earmarked some six million euros for the period up to 2009
for setting up and operating the foundation.
In addition to the biennial Convention on Building Culture, the communication tools planned for
the foundation include a two-yearly status report on building culture by an independent body,
and a "black and white paper" presenting negative and positive examples. Also under discussion
are the choice of a city as "capital" and thus as a "stage" for building culture, and a "national
experiment" in building culture emphasising social, technological, and design innovation. The
federal initiative supports a wide range of projects, measures, and activities that promote the
public discourse and education on building culture, honour constructive and innovative
contributions, enhance design quality, broaden the knowledge base, and improve the publicising
of German architectural and engineering accomplishments and the international presentation of
the country, for example at the Venice Architecture Biennale.

2. Building Cultural Engagement at the State Level

Since 2000, state governments, too, have begun to take action - with widely differing intensity in the pursuit of an independent building culture policy through the media of long-established
procedures and activities (state prizes and competitions, architecture days, open days for historic
monuments or construction sites, public relations work, and Internet sites). State chambers of
architects and engineers often act as motors and sponsors or at least as cooperation partners.
Beyond the state context, the conference of building ministers set up a building culture project
group within the urban planning commission in July 2003; so far seven states have joined in.
(2) A snapshot of the project group's work in 2004 on the basis of information from all state
governments shows both the broad range of measures taken and the perceived obstacles to
fostering building culture. Not surprisingly, the tight financial situation is cited with particular
frequency, but there are also complaints about clients and developers that lack any sense of
building cultural quality and about low public and media interest in the subject. Urban
development promotion is stressed as a useful planning tool, and historical buildings and
ensembles as important building cultural resources.

From the beginnings of the nation-wide initiative, North Rhine-Westphalia has shown a
particularly consistent commitment to building culture - with a marked focus on urban planning.
At the new year reception of the chamber of architects, the then North Rhine-Westphalian
minister of urban development and housing, culture and sport declared building culture to be a
"top priority" issue. In November of the same year, the "NRW Urban Building Culture
Memorandum" appeared, setting out objectives and possible activities for the ten-year Urban
Building Culture Initiative. The state initiative "aims to achieve quality investment in the
building sector, to link public and private sector activities, to raise the profile of locations and
enhance the durability of architecture and urban planning" (Vesper 2002, 30). As a central venue
for addressing urban building culture and bundling state activities, North Rhine-Westphalia set
up the "European House of Urban Culture" in Gelsenkirchen in May 2003.
Two things are striking about the North Rhine-Westphalian initiative: first, that NRW has
apparently succeeded where others have not even recognised the problem, namely the need to
link different fields of action, professional and policy areas; and, second, that key topics and
problems have been tackled - as the titles of pilot projects and events show:

the series of state competitions "Stadt macht Platz - NRW macht Pltze" ("City Makes
Space - NRW Makes Spaces") (2002 to 2006): the implementation of winning design and
use concepts for public spaces is funded by means of the programme
"Stdtebaufrderung" (urban development promotion grants); in the third round a twophase procedure was adopted to include participatory aspects;
the chamber of architects' "1000 Gaps" pilot project (2003 to 2005): after taking
inventory of vacant lots, the "Infill!" competition in October 2005 awarded prizes for
concepts and projects for the exemplary use of "gaps" (infill sites);

the "NRWurbanism" meeting of the European House of Urban Culture with cooperation
partners (2004): Are Urban Planning New Principles Needed in NRW? Can the principles
of the American "New Urbanism" movement directed against urban sprawl be
meaningfully transferred?;

the "Prize for Exemplary Commercial Architecture" competition staged by the European
House of Urban Culture with cooperation partners (2004): the competition honoured
commercial buildings and commercial ensembles outstanding in architectural quality and
urban integration, in their satisfaction of user requirements and the demands of
environmental protection and the conservation of the building stock and historic

the annual congress of the European House of Urban Culture with cooperation partners
under the heading "[Building] Reality" (2005): discussion on the seemingly banal, like
industrial estates, arterial roads, single-family homes, etc., with the aim of "analysing the
scope for quality in everyday reality and to identify potential for building cultural

the "Possible Places - Image Worlds, Planners Worlds" workshop organised by the
European House of Urban Culture with cooperation partners (2005): experiments in the
exploration of space by different disciplines and professions (photographers,

photographic designers, planners, urban developers, architects), discussion on differences

of view and working methods.
On the instigation of the Federal Initiative for Architecture and Building Culture, further states
have positioned themselves with projects and measures, and sometimes with guidelines of their
own on building culture. For example, the Mecklenburg-West Pomerania state assembly set up a
"Mecklenburg-West Pomeranian Initiative for Building Culture" by a unanimous vote in June
2003, a project that had been initiated by the chamber of architects and engineers. Since 2003
Saxony has been awarding the "Saxon State Prize for Building Culture." In December 2002, the
Thuringian government, together with the Thuringian chambers of architects and engineers, set
up a foundation for "Building Culture in Thuringia"; a "Thuringian Inner-City Initiative" was
also established, and the finance ministry awards a biennial "Thuringian State Prize for
Architecture and Urban Planning." Rhineland-Palatinate and Brandenburg have been particularly
active in this field.
In 2001, Rhineland-Palatinate founded the "Round Table on Building Culture" under the aegis of
the ministry of finance and in cooperation with the chamber of architects, which by resolution of
the council of ministers was reorganised under the name "Rhineland-Palatinate Dialogue on
Building Culture." At its Berlin mission in November 2005, the state government presented the
results of ten architectural competitions for the redesign of the entrance areas of major
Rhineland-Palatinate historic structures. A kick-off meeting in December 2005 launched the
"cooperative, educational, planning" school building competition "Schule bauen - bauen schult"
("Building Schools - Schooling through Building"), which is being monitored by the Wstenrot
Foundation. The aim of the competition is to gain "knowledge for the wide-ranging building and
modernisation tasks of the years to come," especially in all-day school construction.
In late 2002, the Brandenburg government launched the discussion series "Building Culture
Policy."(3) With two competitions for school pupils, the state government also turned to the
younger generation to arouse interest in the urban environment: "Bau Stadt um" ("Renewing the
City") (2002/2003) and "Ansichtssache Stadt" ("City - A Matter of Opinion") (2005). "Building
Cultural Landscapes in Brandenburg" (focal theme 2006) involves key building-cultural projects
and self-organised building cultural strategies in the regional context, with a wide range of
projects in small towns and communities.(4)

3. Opinion Formation, Knowledge Transfer, and Research

Seeing, understanding, and intervening presuppose knowledge, experience, and discernment. But
architecture, urban planning and urban design have hitherto played little part in general
education. Endeavours to integrate architectural, urban planning, and urban design issues in the
school curriculum and where possible even in pre-school activities are consequently all the more
important. The proposal of the first Status Report to introduce "design of the built environment"
as a school subject (Khler 2002, 50 ff.) was taken up in the Bundestag. The federal government

considered the recommendation "very important" in "addressing and furthering an understanding

and knowledge of the built environment, architecture, and design through early treatment of this
educational matter in schools and other educational institutions" (Deutscher Bundestag 2002, 5).
Some progress has meanwhile been achieved in this area (Schwalfenberg 2004; BMVBW 2005:
Weeber/Weeber/Khler, 134 ff.).
Under the motto "Architecture macht Schule" ("Architecture Catches On"),(5) projects have
been initiated by the chambers of architects in most states to "give children and youth access to
building-cultural education." This takes place on several levels: work with pupils, art teacher
training, cooperation with institutions of advanced teacher training, and the development of
teaching materials and project documentation. Predecessor activities are the North RhineWestphalian projects "Kammer in der Schule" (KidS) ("Chamber at School"), which have been
running since 1991, in which building problems in schools are solved in cooperation between
architects, pupils, teachers, and parents. The pilot project "transform 2 r.a.u.m - Architecture at
School" (September 2001 to November 2003) of the Bavarian Chamber of Architects, in which
pupils dealt with self-chosen topics on the built environment, gave further impetus to a better
understanding of the environment - also as a supplement to teaching curricula. "Trme fr PISA"
("Towers for PISA") was initiated by the North Rhine-Westphalian Chamber of Engineers to
counter technological frustration among school pupils. Since 2003, the chamber has been staging
this annual, country-wide competition to "introduce pupil teams in play to building and
engineering issues." The object is to build lightweight but optimally stable towers
(Schwalfenberg, 3).
The national programme "denkmal aktiv - Kulturerbe macht Schule"(6) staged by the German
Foundation for Monument Protection (DSD) under the aegis of the German UNESCO
Commission, was established in the autumn of 2003 after a trial phase in 2002/2003 to encourage
young people to engage in research and discovery. The aim of "denkmal activ" is to develop a
"durable network of cooperating schools that integrate the conservation of historic monuments
appropriately into the school curriculum" (Schwalfenberg 2004, 3). This programme, too,
provides teaching materials.
Achieving agreement on quality is a process often highly charged with emotion and difficult to
objectivize. There are several aspects to judging quality: expert and lay assessment differs,
opinions, too, diverge between experts and the lay public, and, finally, notions of quality are
subject to continual cultural revaluation. The gap between expert and lay judgment results firstly
from a lack of prior knowledge among the public and secondly from the often incorrigible
refusal of some professionals to communicate adequately with the lay public.
The users of the city do not as a rule share the reservations of the experts, they are happy to
move into a "new city built in the old style" like the Kirchsteigfeld in Potsdam (Burgdorff 2004,
4). The so-called broad public enjoys things that bring tears to the eyes of most architects and
planners, and vice versa - whether it be the urban surrogates of malls and theme parks or the
ethnocentricity of historicizing new buildings. But the professional community is also divided:
there is heated debate, for instance, on the pros and cons of retro architecture, of reconstructing
destroyed buildings (e.g., palaces in Berlin, Brunswick, and Potsdam), and on the design
principles of "New Urbanism."

The singular taste of many a client and architect producing such buildings has been regularly
pilloried on the "last pages" of specialist journals. Experts are divided on whether this is
justified. When the editors of the "deutsche bauzeitschrift" (db) presented and commented on
such examples at a conference on architectural criticism (Dechau 2003),(7) the ensuing
discussion denounced the procedure as intolerant. Bad examples can, however, serve as material
for discussion and for illustrative purposes - in the training of architects, too - especially if the
criticism is accompanied by well-founded arguments and (better) alternative designs: "What I've
always wanted to demolish in Stuttgart" was one design assignment set students of the Technical
University in Stuttgart.(8)
In this context, the black and white book project of the Federal Foundation for Building Culture
can prove interesting with its planned documentation of "successes and sins in building culture"
(Ganser 2002, 45). Here, too, there is likely to be controversy about who is really able and
entitled to judge the quality of architecture and urban planning on behalf of society. But the
exchange, indeed the clash of arguments and public positions on quality issues helps to decipher
design codes and sharpen critical faculties.
The discussion of architecture and urban planning has come to play a much greater role in the
media than some years ago; but the press offers little systematic critique of issues in these fields.
Both technical journals and the feature sections of newspapers take critical notice almost
exclusively of ambitious and prominent structures and hence of only a tiny section of actual
building activities. The aesthetic dimension predominates. Greater attention needs to be paid to
such criteria as usability, land-use integration, and urban objectives, as well as ecological,
economic, social, and cultural compatibility. The specialist press addresses everyday architecture
and urban development at best in polemic commentary.
Throughout the country there are now many institutions and venues for communicating and
elucidating architectural and planning issues (Becker 2002): architectural museums, galleries,
and centres; planner centres, planer forums; series of events like the "Architecture Quartet"
organised by the Federal Chamber of Architects; a wide range of prizes and awards for
successful buildings and/or urban planning concepts. But a broad impact has yet to be achieved:
the expert public remains the principal addressee.
The decision by the Bundestag to initiate a quality campaign for building culture included a
commitment to using federal research programmes more extensively for advancing basic
knowledge in the field. The research programme "Building and Living in the 21 st Century"
organised by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) and research by the
Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development (BMVBS) on experimental
housing and urban development (ExWoSt) have been able to make a valuable contribution. A
number of expert reports on building culture have been prepared for the federal government, for
instance, on the extent to which building cultural considerations have already been integrated
into "ExWoSt" and how such integration can be intensified (BBR 2004: Doehler/Reuther); on the
"Building Cultural Significance of GVFG Measures"(9) as the basis for a manual on "The Link
between Building Culture and the Traffic Infrastructure" (BMVBW 2005: Machule et al.); and
on "Building Culture in the Urban Renewal Process," an aid-to-work for the towns and cities
participating in the Urban Renewal East programme, with an appeal to include "guidelines on

urban building culture" as an "indispensable component" in the preparation of integrated urban

development concepts (Haller/Rietdorf 2003, 35).
Research is needed on many building cultural issues. Useful benchmark knowledge can be
gained from research into conceptions of quality, the changing roles of agents, changes in
technical, economic, and socio-economic factors, and into the efficiency of procedures. Too little
is also known about whether and how completed projects - from single converted buildings to
new neighbourhoods - actually prove a success in everyday use, whether users accept them from
the point of view of both usability and of design.(10) Research has yet to be undertaken on the
actual steering capacity and programmatic effect of urban (district) development concepts and on
changes in course that might be called for.
Too little is also known about how design and behaviour interact,(11) or about how much change
and deconcentration the city can take, i.e., to what extent and from what stage the "gaps" (vacant
lots and buildings) that develop in shrinking cities disrupt or support appropriation and
identification processes. It would also be interesting to investigate what shapes the general
public's taste in architecture and urban development. Does it derive from the effusions of the
building societies, the lifestyle magazines, the advertising of the housing and property industry,
the almost daily apparition of the TV lottery "dream house" on the living-room screen?

4. Building Culture: Orientations and Areas of Action

Key "base values" in establishing the Federal Foundation for Building Culture are "respect for
history," "a commitment to sustainability," "the defence of the public interest," and a "culture of
procedures" (Ganser 2003, 24). Since the 1970s, a tradition of historical orientation has grown in
urban development. This was shown, for example, by the European Architectural Heritage Year
1975, the International Building Exhibition (IBA) in Berlin in 1984/87, which gave impetus to
the urban development concepts of "critical reconstruction" (in the context of the new building
IBA) and "careful urban renewal" (inherited stock IBA), the demand of the IBA Emscher Park in
the mid-1990s to "take industrial culture seriously!"(12) At about the same time, post-modern
architecture was making cheerful use of many historicising style elements. History was in
increasing danger of being functionalised "for superficial" identity policy (Harlander /Kuhn
2004, 10), image building, and marketing.
Today history is experiencing a renaissance as a "category of urbanity" (Kaltenbrunner 2005,
358). Consumers and users of the city and the built environment are manifesting a growing
desire for the agreeable, for recourse to the past and the (historically) familiar as a framework of
reference. With their neo-traditionalist design elements, the principles of "New Urbanism" meet
with a considerable response. A "retro mentality" underlies many a design, and the reconstruction
of buildings that no longer exist is advocated by sections of the professional community.
An historical perspective requires historical precision and scientific grounding. It is not by
chance that more schooling in history is once more being demanded in the training of architects
and planners. If the curriculum is to promote "architecture as a cultural phenomenon in an

extremely comprehensive sense" (Pieper 2005, 14), analysis from a building history perspective
"of the foundations of all artistic building immanent in architecture and hence necessarily
anthropologically determined" is indispensable (ibid. 18). In view of what he regards as the
inevitable "New Historicism," Thomas Sieverts demands that "the architecture and urban
planning curriculum must return to a more intensive concern with the history of urban
development;" knowledge is needed of "numerous 'classical' examples of urban development at
least as points of reference" against which current designs can be more soundly appraised is
"indispensable" (Sieverts 2004, 146).
Heritage management and the conservation of historic monuments as elements of building
culture seem to be better established in the minds of a broader public (Khler 2002, 47). The lay
public is less concerned with authentic original structures than with the atmosphere of the past.
The conservation of historic monuments and heritage management need to be reformed. Dealing
with the building-cultural heritage demands forward-looking use concepts for buildings created
for other users and uses. The process of striking a balance between original substance and
usability is becoming more acute. Since the historical inventory is not a renewable resource, a
"new appreciation of durability" needs to be achieved "for the general promotion of
sustainability in heritage management and building culture" (Kaltenbrunner 2005, 359).
The expert community largely agrees that aspects of everyday architecture usually caught in the
blind spot need to be examined more closely from a building cultural perspective, and that
attention ought not to be directed solely towards spectacular, usually stand-alone, and often selfreferential development projects. The built environment consists largely of inconspicuous
buildings and "non-architecture." The German Builder Prize (Deutscher Bauherrenpreis)
(13) awarded since 1986 by the KOOPERATION working group honours outstanding
achievements in residential development, thus presenting awards in a more everyday field of
building activity. This inspired the architecture journalist Wolfgang Kil to an enthusiastic
proposal for renaming the prize the "Grand Prix for Intrepid Normality" (Kil 2003, 5).
Among the works that count as everyday structures and which have therefore received even less
attention under the heading of building culture than residential building are traffic structures and
technical infrastructure facilities.(14) A "manual" presenting traffic structures that not only
improve traffic conditions but also make a positive contribution to the cityscape and to good
urban architecture is a move in the right direction. Other valuable aspects of this project are an
analysis of the eight exemplary structures with regard to both "planning and decision-making
processes" and to "impression, implementation, and use," as well as expert interviews and user
surveys (BMVBW 2005: Machule et al., 35 ff.).
The focus of building cultural activities is without doubt public space (ffentlicher Raum und
Stadtgestalt 2002; BMVBW 2005: Weeber/Weeber/Khler, 11 ff.); but the professional
community perceives and judges the state and development of public space in a highly
ambivalent fashion. On the one hand they debate a loss of functions, depopulation,
commercialisation, and privatisation, and on the other they evoke a renaissance and revitalization
of public space (Harlander/Kuhn 2004, 10 ff.; Selle 2004, 131 ff.). These contradictions are
attributable to a lack of theoretical and empirical underpinning. For instance, formal (legal)
privatisation does not necessarily mean the actual denial of access to the public. The tasks facing

building culture with respect to public space are to recover, re-interpret, improve, interlink, and
safeguard. Much has already been undertaken in this direction, for example the series of state
competitions "Stadt macht Platz - NRW macht Pltze" ("City Makes Space - NRW Makes
Spaces") (2002 to 2006) mentioned in section 2, and the "Squares, Parks and Panoramas" project
in which the Stuttgart municipality addressed the perspectives for public space in 2001.
The international importance of this area of action is reflected by the European Prize for Urban
Public Space organised by six renowned European architectural institutions for the first time in
2000.(15) In November 2005 the prize was staged for the fourth time; it is to be presented in
Barcelona in July 2006. In view of the risk of "homogenisation and impoverishment of the urban
landscape," the prize aims to "highlight the importance of public space as a catalyst of public
life" and to recognise and promote "activities for the recovery of areas of social cohesion in
European cities through transforming and improving public space."

5. Building Culture in Concrete Terms and Perspectives for

the Building Cultural Discourse
The case of the "Academy of the Arts" confirms the multi-faceted nature of building culture and
demonstrates the dilemmas accompanying the building cultural perspective. The current dispute
about the deficient usability of the new building for the Berlin Academy of the Arts on Pariser
Platz as a supplement to the existing premises of the Academy in Hanseatenweg (16) provides a
(negative) lesson in building culture. The planning and production history behind this
controversy and the attention it has attracted in the media reveal a number of building cultural
blind spots. Without going into the history of the project at length, certain critical junctures
inconducive to building culture can be mentioned.
The complicated run up to the project alone was full of traps. Given the congenital defects of a
united, East-West Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of the Arts, the function and programme of the
new building remained unclear. The decision in favour of Gnter Behnisch' design was made in a
second, internal advisory procedure. The "Bauwelt" blames a "network of irresponsibilities" for
the overall negative balance of the project (Hoffmann-Axthelm 2005, 29). A brief catalogue of
other misfortunes that have befallen the project: a debate about facades in the context of the
Berlin architectural dispute instead of a discussion of the space and functional programme;
despite incomplete planning, the contract was awarded to an investor and a general contractor;
divided client functions within the Berlin Senate; uncontrolled interaction between actors; delays
and price rises; etc.
In April 2005, an issue of the Bauwelt devoted to the academy appeared, offering precise
information and analyses that attributed the failure of the building primarily to the procedural
history of the project. The criticism that appeared in the daily press in March 2006 targeted the
considerable deficiencies in the usability of the building.(17) Without any knowledge of the
background process, the impartial reader must take the architect to be the main author of the
debacle, an inadmissible simplification.

Overall, building culture as an area of policy must gain in substance and clarity; action is needed
in the following fields:

Strengthening urban planning concerns in the building cultural discourse: A "feedback

from architecture to urban planning" (a key demand of the IBA Emscher Park) still
received too little attention at the first Convention on Building Culture. Urban
development structures provide a more or less robust framework that can cope with even
inconsequential architecture.
Identification of urgent building cultural issues and a sense for forward-looking solutions:
neuralgic points in urban development like demolition and downsizing together with
important upgrading measures need to be integrated more strongly in the building cultural
debate. This includes discussion of changes in mentality among agents and the
formulation of new tasks and solutions.

An open discussion of conflicts: problematic projects and procedures ought not to be

mentioned merely in passing. Their structural content needs to be analysed to permit
conclusions to be drawn on procedures and task formulation.

Early warning of abortive building culture developments: architectural criticism has an

important seismographic role to play: sometimes it is necessary to intervene ex ante in the
public debate, as Ulrich Conrads did in criticising Hans Hollein's project for the Berlin
Kulturforum in 1986 ("unsuitable"!) (18) and Manred Sack with his criticism of
procedure in the planning for Potsdamer/Leipziger Platz ("mistake of the century"!) (19) .

Closer networking and new coalitions between actors from various professions: in
addition to urban and landscape planning, landscape planning, monument conservation
and heritage management, engineering, architecture, and urban development the sectors
concerned include the housing, building, and real estate industries, private developers,
and, especially, the media. The key role of urban development promotion as one of the
few still effective control tools makes it particularly urgent to establish solid strategic
partnerships between the proponents of building culture and the agents of urban
development promotion.

Since the launch of the initiative in the autumn of 2000, the discussion has gained in stature; the
growing attention to quality is certainly partly the reason why the federal, state, and local
governments have been able to present so many examples of high-standard design. It is still too
early for any systematic performance review. But a Federal Foundation for Building Culture is
likely to assume a key mediating and strategic role in developments. Despite the great potential
for conflict that such a procedure implies, it is vital to intensify the debate on quality with
reference to positive and negative examples. This is necessary not least of all because spatial and
temporal priorities for intervention and investment in shrinking cities and regions need to be set
that are also justified on grounds of quality. And this should be done with the greatest possible
transparency and expertise.


(1) (back)

(2) Bavaria, Berlin, Hamburg, Hessen, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, North Rhine-Westphalia,
Schleswig-Holstein. (back)
(3) The contributions are documented in Fritz-Haendler/Mller (2003). (back)
(4) For example, renaturalisation of an industrial canal in Guben, conversion of a railway station
into a library in Luckenwalde, conversion of a diesel power station into an art museum in
Cottbus, redesign of the main through road in Dahme. (back)
(5) Literally "Architecture Makes School": the expression "Schule machen" can be translated as
"set a precedent, become the accepted thing, catch on". (back)
(6) Translator's note: for some time now, no project or programme seems
to manage without a catchy wordplay or two in its name, which, as in this case, renders
translation, if not impossible, then very difficult. "denkmal aktiv" can be read as literally as
"active historic monument" or as "think actively"; "Kulturerbe macht Schule" "Cultural heritage
catches on". See footnote 5. (back)
(7) "It it time not only to think about a black book, black and white book or even better, grey
book, but to negotiate." The concept expresses concern "not only with total architectural blunders
but also with all those structures that just manage to stay within the limit" (Dechau 2003, 45).
(8) Professor Arno Lederer, cf. Bauwelt H (2005), 29 (back)
(9) GVFG: Community Transport Financing Act. (back)
(10) One specific case is the "Academy of the Arts" in Berlin, see section 5. (back)
(11) A field that is currently gaining in importance, e.g., the British CABE (Commission for
Architecture and the Built Environment) case studies "Decent Parks? Decent behaviour? The link
between the quality of parks and user behaviour." (back)
(12) As one of four key demands. (back)
(13) In 1996 the sponsors split the prize into awards for "innovative new housing construction"
and for "rehabilitation, modernisation, and renovation projects in residential building," which
have since been award alternately each year. (back)
(14) They include bridges, tunnels, noise barriers, parking decks, through streets, service
stations, public transport stations and stops, railway lines, waste disposal facilities, power
stations. (back)

(15) Centre de Cultura Contempornia de Barcelona, Institut Franais d'Architecture (Paris), The
Architecture Foundation (London), Nederlands Architectuurinstituut (Rotterdam),
Architekturzentrum Wien and the Museum of Finnish Architecture (Helsinki); the best works are
documented and made accessible in the European Archive of Urban Public Space
( (back)
(16) The discrepancy between ambitious design and usability deficiencies brought severe
criticism from attorney and patron of the arts Peter Raue in the Berliner Tagesspiegel of 4 March
2006, answered by the architect Gnter Behnisch on 11 March. (back)
(17) "Adieu Pariser Platz! Ist die Akademie der Knste zu retten? Pldoyer fr die Rckkehr zum
Hanseatenweg. Und zum Wesentlichen"/by Peter Raue (Der Tagesspiegel of 4 March 2006).
(18) U(lrich) Conrads, Untauglich, in: Bauwelt, H. 47 (1986), 1778-1780. (back)
(19) Manfred Sack, Der Jahrhundertfehler, in: "Die Zeit" of 20 April 1990. (back)

Akademie der Knste (2005), Bauwelt (Themenheft), H. 13 (2005). (back)
Baukultur - Planungskultur (2002), Informationen zur Raumentwicklung (Themenheft),
H. 11/12 (2002). (back)
Becker, Heidede (2002), Stadtbaukultur - Modelle, Workshops, Wettbewerbe. Verfahren der
Verstndigung ber die Gestaltung der Stadt, 2 vols., Stuttgart. (back)
Becker, Heidede (2003), Architektur und Stdtebau publik machen, in: Conrads, Ulrich/Fhr,
Eduard/Gnshirt, Christian, Zur Sprache bringen. Kritik der Architekturkritik, Mnster und
andere, 201-211. (back)
BBR/Bundesamt fr Bauwesen und Raumforschung (ed.), Bearbeitung: Marta Doehler und Iris
Reuther (Juni 2004), Baukultur in ExWoSt - Ein Verstndigungsversuch. Dokumentation, Juni
2004, Kurzfassung; (back)
BMVBW/Bundesministerium fr Verkehr, Bau- und Wohnungswesen (ed.), Bearbeitung:
Rotraut Weeber, Hannes Weeber und Gert Khler (2005), Baukultur! Informationen - Argumente
- Konzepte. Zweiter Bericht zur Baukultur in Deutschland, Hamburg. (back)
BMVBW/Bundesministerium fr Verkehr, Bau- und Wohnungswesen (ed.), Bearbeitung:
Dittmar Machule und andere (2005), Kommunale Verkehrsinfrastruktur: Baukulturelle
Bedeutung von GVFG-Manahmen, direkt, H. 61 (2005). (back)

BMVBW/Bundesministerium fr Verkehr, Bau- und Wohnungswesen (ed.), Bearbeitung:

Bundesamt fr Bauwesen und Raumordnung (2005), Nachhaltige Stadtentwicklung - ein
Gemeinschaftswerk. Stdtebaulicher Bericht der Bundesregierung 2004, Bonn. (back)
Burgdorff, Frauke (2004), Einfhrung, in: Europisches Haus der Stadtkultur e.V. (ed.),
NRWurbanism - Neue Prinzipien fr den Stdtebau in Nordrhein-Westfalen? Werkstattbericht
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Sprache bringen. Kritik der Architekturkritik, Mnster und andere, 43-61. (back)
Deutscher Bundestag (2002), Bericht der Bundesregierung - Initiative Architektur und
Baukultur, Drucksache 14/8966 vom 29. April 2002. (back)
Deutscher Bundestag (2003), Antrag. Die Qualittsoffensive fr gutes Planen und Bauen
voranbringen, Drucksache 15/1092 vom 3. Juni 2003. (back)
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Kernthemen der Baukultur im 21. Jahrhundert;
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ffentlichen Raums im 20. Jahrhundert, in: Europisches Haus der Stadtkultur e.V. (ed.), Stadt
macht Platz - NRW macht Pltze. Landeswettbewerb 2003/Dokumentation, Gelsenkirchen, 6-13.
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Wandel und Belebung? Reden und Gegenreden, in: Siebel, Walter (ed.), Die europische Stadt,
Frankfurt/Main, 131-145. (back)
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