The EU is developing an integrated and people-centered approach to a sustainable built environment, where architecture has a major role to play to design buildings, public space and urban landscapes that contribute to citizens’ quality of life.
As mentioned in the EU Council Work Plan for Culture 2019-2022 architecture is clearly a cross-cutting field and should be promoted “as a discipline that encompasses the right balance between cultural, social, economic, environmental and technical aspects for the common good”.
That is why many EU policies (such as construction, energy-efficiency, climate change, research, cohesion…) can contribute to a high-quality built environment, including the cultural policy and initiatives listed below.
Europe has more than half a million architects
According to the Architects’ Council of Europe (ACE)’s Study 2018, the estimated total number of architects in the EU’s 28 Member States plus Norway, Serbia, and Switzerland is approximately 562 000. The structure of the profession is as follows
- 71% of practices are one-person practices
- 25% are groups of 2-5 people
- 3% are groups of 6-10
In terms of gender balance things seem to be evolving as 53% of architects in their 30s are female, compared with 32% in their 50s.
The legal form shows a slightly different picture. Looking at the latest two ACE studies (2016 and 2018)
- 50 to 60% are working as independent architects
- 7 to 10% in partnerships
- 20 to 30% have established a limited company
EU Policy framework: a brief timeline
2001: First policy outline
The Council Resolution on architectural quality in urban and rural environments of 12 February 2001 flagged new architecture as 'the heritage of tomorrow'. It encouraged Member States to 'promote architectural quality by means of exemplary public building policies', including through the Structural Funds.
2008: Architecture’s contribution to sustainable development
The Council conclusions on architecture: culture's contribution to sustainable development in December 2008, called for the mainstreaming and awareness-raising of architecture’s contribution to a “high-quality living environment”.
The late European Forum for Architectural Policies (EFAP) allowed for policy exchange among Member States and published a Survey on Architectural Policies in Europe in 2012. Over the last few years, there has been a growing acknowledgment of the importance of quality architecture for the sustainable development of European societies.
2018: Baukultur and cross-objective policy making
The Davos Declaration “Towards a High-quality Baukultur for Europe”, adopted by European Ministers of Culture and stakeholders (such as ACE) in January 2018. It highlighted the central role of culture in the built environment and called for an integrated and quality approach to the environment shaped by man (i.e. Baukultur, which includes architecture, heritage, public space, landscape, infrastructure).
This concept is at EU level and further discussed with
- European Directors of Architecture (informal meetings launched in 2017 by the French Ministry of Culture to exchange on policy development)
- European Conferences on Architectural Policies (ECAP) organised by Member States holding the EU Presidency
Member States Experts’ group on architecture
As a result of the policy work carried out as of 2018, the Council Work Plan for Culture 2019-2022, established the creation of an Open Method of Coordination (OMC) group of Member State experts focusing on High-quality architecture and Built Environment for Everyone.
35 experts from 22 Member States, plus Switzerland and Norway, participated in this group. The first meeting was held in February 2020.
On 5 October 2021, collecting the conclusions of the expert group, the European Commission published the report “Towards a shared culture of architecture - Investing in a high-quality living environment for everyone”.
The report aims at demonstrating that criteria for quality living space and design should not be only functional, ecological or economic but also fulfil social, cultural and psychological needs as well as a general sense of belonging. Based on a collection of case studies, the report provides recommendations to ensure high-quality architecture and built environment.
The expert group has established synergies with other relevant EU actions such as the Green Deal initiatives related to the built environment, the Urban Agenda Partnership on Culture and Cultural Heritage and the Horizon 2020 project Urban Maestro.
- Find out more about the report High-quality architecture and built environment for everyone
Creative Europe support to (quality) architecture
Prizes recognising outstanding work in Contemporary Architecture
With the support of the Creative Europe programme, the European Union organises two prizes with the Mies van der Rohe Foundation to recognise outstanding achievements in architecture:
1. EU Prize for Contemporary Architecture - Mies van der Rohe Award
Since 2001, the EU Prize for Contemporary Architecture - Mies van der Rohe Award has been the main EU tool to highlight and promote quality architecture in Europe. It is a biennial prize highlighting outstanding architectural works built across Europe. Besides the main prize (€60,000), it also includes the Emerging Architect Prize (€20,000).
- Find out more about the Miles van der Rohe Award
2. Young Talent Architecture Award
The Young Talent Architecture Award (YTAA), launched in 2016 is a complement to the EU Prize for Contemporary Architecture to reward the best diploma projects of Europe’s architecture students and help them make the transition to the professional world. ACE, the European Association for Architectural Education (EAAE) and La Biennale di Venezia are official partners of YTAA.
To foster dialogue among young professionals worldwide, the YTAA was opened to two Asian countries in 2018 and to three Latin-American countries in 2020. A stand-alone Asian edition of YTAA (with China, India, Japan and South-Korea) was also launched in 2020.
- Find out more about the Young Talent Architecture Award
Networks and platforms
Under the Creative Europe programme, the European Union/European Commission also supports the following network and platform:
Architect’s Council of Europe
The Architects’ Council of Europe (ACE) is composed of 43 Member Organisations from 31 countries in Europe: the national regulatory and professional representative bodies of architecture in the EU Member States, Serbia, Switzerland and Norway.
It is supported as a European Network for its CONNECT ARCH activities (May 2017 - April 2021), which aim to reinforce the profession’s capacity to face current and forthcoming challenges: cross-border and trans-national mobility, increased competition from outside the EU, adaptation to digital technologies, acquisition of new skills and competences.
ACE also participates in the Commission’s Expert Group on Cultural Heritage and contributes to the OMC group on High-quality architecture. On the international stage, they negotiate Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) with third countries such as Canada and the Republic of Korea.
LINA Architecture Platform
LINA (Learning, Interacting and Networking in Architecture) is a platform initiated in 2021 by institutions and organisations that were behind Future Architecture Platform. The aim of LINA is to support emerging architects and at the same time mobilize the profession's efforts in creating a sustainable environment.
LINA brings together architectural efforts to address environmental challenges and supports and disseminates ideas that help deliver the European Green Deal. Through research, workshops, exhibitions, conferences and publishing projects, LINA embodies the ethos of the New European Bauhaus, championing the development of sustainable architecture.
LINA brings together 28 organizations from 23 Mediterranean countries, among which there are several European biennials, triennials and festivals, museums, research networks and laboratories, publishing houses and universities. The Faculty of Architecture at the University of Ljubljana coordinates the initiative.
The following cultural cooperation projects are worth highlighting.
Human cities: Challenging the city scale (2014-2018)
A project using design as a creative and sustainable tool to innovate with people in the urban space led by Cité du design - Saint Etienne (FR).
With its follow-up project “SMOTIES-Creative works with small and remote places” as of 2020, the platform will decline its approach in 10 small and remote European places intended as depositories of a material and immaterial culture that risks being lost.
Tbilisi architecture biennial (2018 and 2020)
Tbilisi Architecture Biennial was created in 2018 led by the Georgian organisation 42 Gradusi. The first edition explored the informality of the built and lived spaces of residential settlements in Tbilisi and beyond. Under the name “Buildings Are Not Enough”, Tbilisi Architecture Biennial studied the transformational processes and newly reinvented living patterns of city dwellers: buildings have been transformed as the lives of those who dwell in them were being transformed.
What is expected in the Creative Europe programme (2021-27)
The European Commission proposal for the Creative Europe programme (2021-2027) includes sectorial support for the architecture sector. The proposed actions should focus on capacity-building, awareness-raising and access to markets.