Who we are and what we do

The Austrian Platform For Architectural Policy And Building Culture

Who we are
An interdisciplinary forum of all important and relevant institutions in Austria engaged in architecture and architectural culture.

Roughly our members come from the following three main sectors:

1) Mediation and transfer of architectual knowledge
A task undertaken all over Austria by the Houses of Architecture existing in every federal province including the largest one, the Architektur Zentrum Wien as well as the Vorarlberger Architektur Institut, the Haus der Architektur in Graz and the aut – architecture and tyrol till the smallest one covering the federal province of Burgenland (which is implementing very interesting cross-border projects especially with our Hungarian neighbours), but also a great number of small, very dynamic institutions acting in this field.

2) Training, education and research
All the Universities and Acedemies (such as the Academy of Fine Arts and the University of Applied Arts ), where architecture is lectured and beyond that also specific professional High Schools (Fachhochschulen).

3) Professional organisations and interested working groups
In particular the Chamber for Architects and Consulting Engineers with their regional structures as well as more recent initiatives in this area, especially the ig-architektur.

Brief history of the platform
Shortly before the most recent general elections for the National Assembly in Austria were held in autumn 2002 a selected circle of dedicated people worked together to elaborate questions concerning architectural culture, landscape planning and engineering to be submitted to the Austrian political circles. This was finally done with the help of a questionnaire presented within the framework of a very well attended podium discussion and a number of individual meetings.

The respective replies have been widely published in the architectural media. The german Version can be found on our website: www.architekturpolitik.at.

The exercise clearly demonstrated a substantial lack of information in the political circles on the one hand. On the other hand the policy-makers clearly showed great interest to further continue the dialogue and to intensify the existing contacts.

Thus originated the motivation for an active follow-up even beyond the election 2002 with the overall aim to foster a long-term dialogue with the political decision-makers on various levels.

In line with the slogan „architecture should be present everywhere – construction has to turn into architecture“ an appropriate awareness towards the cultural responsibility should be created at the same time enhancing the understanding for contemporary architecture and architectural culture.

To follow up on these objectives a rather informal small group of three people (Volker Dienst, Barbara Feller , Roland Gruber) has been formed. This group is pursuing the operative work and the manyfold discussions with the political world and simultaneously forces the internal network.

They are supported in these efforts by a group of 10 to 15 dedicated personalities (belonging to the earlier described institutions) – a body called Experts‘ Forum – in particular for the programmatic concept.

In a first document – guidelines of the platform – already in June 2003 basic principles have been included. In order to involve everybody concerned and to gather as much know-how and expertise as possible and to reach internally the maximum of consensus, in autumn 2003 a two-days‘ workshop had been organised in the course of which experts‘ working groups refined the programmatic content and identified priorities.

As a first priority the organisation of an enquete in the Austrian Parliament has been stated.

The workshop was followed by further seminars and countless meetings with the political world. This persevering work of the platform was successfull when in January 2004 all political fractions of the Parliament decided unanimously to organise a comprehensive enquete on the subject „architectural policy and building culture in Austria “ for the 30th of march 2004.

In the course of this one-day event in the plenary of Parliament experts from Austria and abroad presented in brief statements basic considerations on crucial aspects of planning and design. Also the responsibilities of clients have been highlighted. The topics: outsourcing of planning as well as training and education have been included in the agenda. Finally the question of sustainability and the issues image and economy have been included.

Thus a deeper insight into the complex world of architecture and building culture has been offered to Parliamentarians and other decision-makers of various public institutions such as federal provinces, cities and municipalities.

On this occasion a six-points action plan summarizing the basic framework for a modern architectural policy has been handed out to the Parliamentarians: a clear statement of the federal Parliament recognizing the importance of architecture was one of the points included. Another point was the request to publish an annual report regarding the actual status of architectural culture in Austria .

The clients’ responsibility and a focus on quality in public tendering have also been stressed.
Last but not least the full integration of the architectural cultural mandate into the administration of the State and its subsidiary bodies was requested.

Headings of the six-points action plan:
(more detailed information can be found on our homepage)

1. Architectural culture concerns everybody

for this citizens have a basic right for high-quality architecture.

2. Architectural culture contributes to the quality of life and determines to a large extent the cultural, social and ecological standards in the country.

3. Architectural policy improves the „image“
A committed architectural policy leads not only to economic success but in addition enhances the image.

4. The promotion of architectural policy is an incentive for the economy

5. Quality in architecture is not merely a luxury for the upper-class minority but creates an additional value to the benefit of all Citizans.

6. Infrastructure has a dominating impact on landscape and environment. Only an integrated high-quality planning of the landscape and the interconnected infrastructure can ensure and preserve the high-quality of our environment.

After the enquete the platform continued to work on the implementation of these guidelines: further meetings with the political world, refining of the position papers and in February 2005 another Austrian-wide seminar was organised.

This work is funded from financial ressources contributed by our members and project orientated funds.

What are our plans for the future?
A principal outcome of the enquete was a resolution presented by all political parties in March 2005 in Parliament, formally requesting the Austrian government to submit a detailed report on the actual status of the architectural culture in Austria; thus for the first time in Austria the relevant data and facts will be assessed in a comprehensive manner. In the report also best practice models should be identified as well as general recommendations for the future.

The platform is presently engaged in intensive discussions regarding structure and format of the document. The final presentation of this report is scheduled for autumn 2006.

Another important event organized by the platform, commisioned by the Austrian Government, State Secretary Franz Morak, will be the meeting of the European Forum for Architectural Policy in Vienna in June 2006.