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Perspectives: Young Architects’ Forum. A arquitectura é na sua essência um acto político
Sob o tema Perspectives, foram convidados jovens arquitectos de toda a Europa para expressarem os seus pontos de vista sobre a profissão e as suas perspectivas e aspirações para o futuro.
A presente declaração resume os contributos dos oradores no Fórum dos Jovens Arquitectos.

Statement presented on 23 November 2019 in Barcelona on the occasion of the Young Architects’ Forum organised by the Architects’ Council of Europe (ACE)

Architecture remains a very attractive profession for the younger generations. According to the latest ACE Sector Study, the number of architects in Europe has been steadily increasing over the past ten years due to growing numbers of young architects entering the profession [According to the 2018 ACE Sector Study, between 2008 and 2018, the number of architects in Europe has risen by 24%, passing from 453.000 to 562.000 individuals. Study available on the [ ACE website ]. As a result, the profession is relatively young today: 30% of European architects are aged under 40 and 15% have 5 years or less experience.
Whether they are young graduates, employed or have set up their own office, young architects face numerous challenges: demanding labour markets, burdensome regulatory framework, highly competitive and little open markets as well as business and professional environments where practices are changing rapidly.
The Architects’ Council of Europe organised on 23 November 2019 a conference with the title Perspectives, inviting young architects from all over Europe to express their views on the profession and their visions and aspirations for the future. The present statement summarises the contributions received from the speakers of the conference.


Democracy, participation and bottom up approaches:
Put people at the centre of the architectural approach

There is a clear need and demand for more bottom-up and participatory processes for the design of the built environment. There is growing interest in co-design approaches, aimed at actively involving all stakeholders and end users in the design process in order to ensure the project meets their needs.
* One too often forgets for whom buildings are done. Our society needs more direct democracy - public and users’ involvement are crucial. Projects have to be developed bottom-up instead of top-down.
* Private investors see buildings just as products, giving overly importance to the real estate value, at the expense of the social, cultural and utility values. Such developments forget the need for beauty, sustainability and ‘bonheur’ and result in buildings which look more and more alike.
* The quality of the built environment is of common interest. This is not sufficiently reflected in the national and EU legal frameworks.

Sustainability: An integral part of architecture
While there is growing concern about the scarcity of resources and fragility of our environment, urgent actions must be taken in the construction and building sectors, which have huge potential in terms of resource savings and waste reduction. Architecture has a crucial role to play here.
* Sustainability is to be seen as integral part of architecture - the times it was seen as something of its own are passed. It shall be an element like firmitatis, utilitatis, venustatis, stability, functionality, beauty and sustainability.
* Meeting the challenges of our time requires new approaches, which are miles away from greenwashing facades in fancy 3Ds.
* It is important to look for alternatives to concrete, the construction material with the greatest carbon footprint. Earth, wood and innovative materials should be brought to the foreground.
* Thermal requirements and other regulations are too often non-holistic and look only at certain qualities of materials or technologies. The options of re-using or even undoing have no place in regulations. A more holistic approach is necessary.
* Designers should use technical innovations but not being driven by them. Technology is just a tool to be used in an adequate way. Likewise, BIM should be seen as a tool offering the opportunity to have greater control on the entire process.
* Circular economy principles have to be applied in the construction sector, so our built environment can be easily repaired, re-used or adapted to new needs, while optimising resource value and generating as little waste as possible.

Transition from school to work: entering highly competitive markets
Many countries see a high number of young graduates entering the labour market every year. Competition for internships and initial work experiences is extremely tight, sometimes leading young people to accept unpaid internships and to multiply the number of low-income temporary jobs, with little social protection coverage and low probability of professional advancement [ The ACE Sector Study shows that architects aged under 30 earn significantly less than any other group - the average earnings of architects aged 35-39 are double those of architects aged under 30. ]. Yet, these internships and initial work experiences are a must for starting a career as architect, as certain indispensable skills and competences for the practice of architecture can only be acquired through professional practice experience.
* Schools reach a historic maximum every semester. We receive 10 to 15 applications every day, all from very young and unprepared students requesting “any kind of internship, even if unpaid”.

Facing complex regulatory frameworks and business environments
Architects operate today in a fast-paced business and economic environment, with only short-term visibility, requiring being highly flexible and adaptable. They face complex standard settings and regulatory frameworks; administrative burden; difficulties and delays in receiving payments; insurance and liability issues, etc.
* We perceive a lack of value to our profession, which especially become a lack of economic compensation sometimes. There is a trend to normalization of irregular and unfair practices, such as non-paid or non-recognized work.
* The profession is still male dominated. As a result, 52% of the potential of our societies is lost. We advocate for equal treatment and for closing the pay-gap between men and women.
* The practice and the access to the profession are overregulated. The plethora of norms, building standards, legislation and other rules makes building expensive and limits innovation. Moreover, in many countries it is a too long way to become an architect.
* Cooperation with other professions is desirable but is often hindered by professional regulations.

Public procurement and access to the market
With regard to public procurement, young and small architectural offices are severely impacted by certain requirements imposed by some contracting authorities. Being considered as non-eligible, they are prevented from working on large scales projects.
* Access to public procurement is limited – it is almost impossible for young and small offices. Requirements on turnover and references are highly hindering the access to the market.
* Juries in competitions, too often dominated by the investors, often fear innovative approaches and tend to favor the ´more of the same´, resulting in standardisation of the built environment.
* As a result of privatization of resources and services, public authorities lose leardership for achieving the common good.

The recognition of architecture and the role of architects in society
The understanding of architecture in the society, the recognition of its values and the perception of the role of the architect are evolving.
* It is important to raise general understanding of architecture in society - we want to talk not only to our fellows, but to everybody. Let the society feel the added value and atmosphere of contemporary architecture.
* Architects have to raise their political awareness and realise that architecture has the power to change our daily life, that it is a way to empower people for social transformation.
* Architects should play a role of chef d’orchestre, mediator and spokespersons of citizens interests.
* There is a growing public demand for quality-built environments, especially in the field of residential buildings, but also in all every day uses, housing, working places, public spaces.
* Single architects signing projects with their own name are a dying species. The architect figure, practicing alone, is replaced by collective and collaborative models.
* We want to be close to the building activity, to be close to how things are actually built.
* Self-built small-scale projects, cooperation with artists, participatory urban design, empty or unused buildings, temporary uses projects offer great potentials and opportunities for experimenting new ways to occupy space and breaking down barriers between disciplines.

Expectations from the European Union
The EU plays a growing role in many areas affecting the built environment and the daily practice of the architectural profession: recognition of professional qualifications, establishment and provision of services in another Member States, public procurement, energy performance of buildings, research, etc. Through a coherent and progressive regulatory framework and supporting initiatives especially in the cultural field, the EU can empower architects to achieve quality in the built environment and contribute to the achievement of EU ambitions.
* Greater priority should be given to research focusing on the role of the creative arts and design in the social, economic and environmental transformation of the built environment, in particular on high-quality architecture as a means to improve people’s quality of life. Innovative projects in the areas of urban innovative actions, building performance and (temporary) re-use should also be further supported.
* The EU should further support the mobility of architects in Europe, the networking of professionals as well as cross-border collaborations through dedicated funding scheme and online platforms.
* Better public procurement procedures are necessary: more democratic and transparent, open and accessible to SMEs, with fair compensations and limitations to the influence of the competition authorities.
* The EU has an important role to play in raising awareness of citizens about the importance of quality in the built environment and the understanding of the profession.
* Do not look only at big scale projects – quality in small scale projects and everyday architecture is essential.

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