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Dialogue between civilisations

The primary aim of architecture and urban and landscape planning is to ensure the sustainable development and enhancement of urban civilisations while taking due account of the specific features and characteristics of regional cultures. Long before the dramatic events of September 2001, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Klaus Töpfer, called for global environmental planning and the elaboration of a new peace policy designed to even up living conditions in the world. These aims must merge with those of architecture, urban planning and regional development to produce an integrated and comprehensive policy for architecture and urban development that will be applicable throughout the world.
Material and energy resources continue to be wasted everywhere. The effects can be felt at both the local and global level. The consequences of such wastage – from changes in the climate to the growing prosperity gap between societies and nations – are leading to ever greater political dangers, not the least of which is terrorism.

One of the reasons for these developments is undoubtedly the attitude taken towards mankind’s intellectual resources, including the moral concepts inherent in architecture and urban and landscape planning. Here too – as is the case with material values – intellectual, ethical and moral values are frequently ignored or wasted. The sense of responsibility to society and the environment, innovative skills, creativity, imagination and many of the other unlimited resources of the human intellect and conscience are not exploited or are channelled in the wrong direction.

What we are concerned with here, therefore, are not merely the finite opportunities for development in the »earth’s horizon«, but also – and to an increasing extent – the infinite potential of the »intellectual horizon«. Too little attention is given to, or use made of, the dimensions of culture and beauty as expressions of human happiness and the capacity to sense and feel what is hidden beneath the surface of things. Indeed, they may even be subject to perversion, as can be seen in the case of philosophical ideologies and modern religious fundamentalism.

»The structures of global inequality« (Saskia Sassen), i.e. the unequal distribution of material resources, cultural colonialism and the exhaustion of irreplaceable raw materials, are the cause of the political conflicts between North and South, between races and religions. The authority of architects and urban and landscape planners, who together with others are responsible for elaborating standards, communicating know-how and promoting dialogue between cultures, must be used to help resolve urgent problems if the aim of achieving a peaceful future for mankind is to endure in the material and intellectual »horizon of the earth«.

Dialogue between cultures

Following the terrorist attacks in September 2001 and the response of the victims, a new urgency has been given to the need for a global peace policy. It must include the global economy and respect for the environment and it must be developed in the context of a discussion on values that is being conducted in the dialogue of ideas, sciences, cultures and generations. Architects and other planners intend to make their own contribution to this discussion during the XXI World Congress of Architecture.

The theme of the World Congress of the International Union of Architects (UIA) is »Resource Architecture«. The use of the intellectual and material resources involved in planning and building, set against the backdrop of the dialogue between the cultures, is designed to promote the global processes of peaceful civilisation, innovative modernisation and the continuation of regional traditions, especially in towns and cities, which are the source of all cultures.

Architecture and urban and landscape planning can act as positive symbols of the forces of globalisation and make the process of globalisation environmentally compatible and socially just in the context of a discussion on values between the cultures and disciplines. The forces of globalisation cannot be stopped, but they can help to bring about a better and more environmentally compatible quality of life and a fairer distribution in the context of global civilisation.

By relating architecture and urban development – the themes of the congress – to the global develop-ment of a peaceful world environmental policy the congress can make use of terms that anticipate events and how they relate to one another in the international political context – to the extent that they are perceived by the general public.

A policy of »business as usual« would result in the countries of the West not altering their energy consumption habits, not calling their values into question, not gearing their economies to the sparing use of primary resources and the recovery of secondary resources and, therefore, not making any changes in architecture, town planning and regional development. It would also mean that the developing and newly industrialised countries would be obliged to resort to outdated and no longer acceptable concepts of development in order to keep up or catch up.

The tragic events of recent months have shown that the level of civilisation and so-called technical progress are extremely vulnerable as a result of their alienation from natural modes of development and resources. What we need, therefore, following on a dialogue on future moral concepts, is a shift in paradigms in global architecture, town planning and regional development. If we carry on in the future as we have done in the past we shall need four worlds. But we only have one.

Architecture of the new horizons

Cultural reflection and innovation are needed in the exchange between all the world cultures. The state and preservation of the natural environment are regarded in all cultures as essential for a decent life. A consensus on how this is to take place in practice can only be achieved by reference to social, cultural and religious values, morals and ethics. Architecture thus assumes an existential role in the achievement of an acceptable consensus in the horizon of the intellect and thus in the horizon of the earth. This consensus must be discussed and worked out in a dialogue between the disciplines.

What concepts can be elaborated for an architecture that is not just concerned with itself or is autistic, as it were? How can the principles for the development of architecture and urban and landscape planning be defined as part of a value-determined global environmental policy? These will be among the key themes discussed under the heading of »Resource Architecture« in the categories of »Urban Societies«, »The Built and the Natural««, »»Innovation and Tradition« and »Space and Identity« during the plenary sessions and the many forums, workshops and project reports at the World Congress of Architecture, which is to be held for the first time ever in Germany.

Berlin, October 2001

Reinhart Wustlich, Secretary of the Scientific Committee

Andreas Gottlieb Hempel, President of the Congress

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Last update: 11/12/2001