This article is about the European and international context in which we are preparing the Irish National Policy on Architecture. Across Europe national and local architectural policies inform architectural design and built environment quality. Architecture is now an emerging priority at EU level. A European expert group, including Irish representation, will report next year to the European Commission on ‘High Quality Architecture and built environment for everyone’. This European policy context is itself informed by the international Sustainable Development Goals and both major directions are informing the development of our new policy.

Last month, in the State of the Union Address, European Commission President von der Leyen called for a “European Bauhaus’ as a co-creation platform for architects, engineers and designers, to launch the architectural style of our times, reflecting our aspirations to make Europe the first climate neutral continent.” This statement places architecture as central theme to the European recovery and provides the opportunity for each Member States to respond to key environmental concerns and to plan for their future.

The European Commission’s Renovation Wave, will fund the substantial upgrading of EU building stock as ‘increasing the energy efficiency of buildings and the renovation rate in Europe benefits everyone. A-rated buildings produce fewer emissions, are healthier for their occupants, and create jobs.’

The Danish Architectural Policy – Putting People First is similar to the aspiration of our consultation document and focuses on the role of architecture under a number of sections – Architecture Meets People, Architecture and Democracy, Architecture and Sustainability & Architecture’s Contribution. The actions of this policy have been implemented. They provide insight into the implementation process. A Danish group led the publication of An Architecture Guide to the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals, illustrating how architecture must relate to sustainability in the environmental, social, and cultural sense. ‘Architecture must be designed to encourage a more resource conscious behaviour and should help to create buildings and urban environments with room for people to live, space for urban life, public meeting places, experiences, and aesthetics – and for climate contingency installations to protect against extreme weather conditions’.

A current EU research project ‘Urban Maestro’ is examining how ‘soft ‘or ‘non-regulatory’ tools of government can shape the decision making processes that support the delivery of better-designed places.

An interesting approach to communication and engagement is Panorama Netherlands – a spatial representation of how the Netherlands can change over the next few decades, developed by the Board of Government Advisors of the Netherlands against the background of major societal challenges. The Panorama is intended as a first step towards a shared, recognisable and positive vision of the future.

Nessa Roche & Nicki Matthews
Department of Housing, Governemnt and Heritage
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There are two other articles in this series – What is the National Policy on Architecture, and Why is a National Policy on Architecture important?