From the top floor of the Hilton Hotel at Tucherpark in Munich, you could see the skyline of the city dotted with construction cranes, a reflection of its current state of development. With this backdrop of old meets new, this year’s edition of the Architecture Matters conference started its program under the title “Second City: The New in the Old.” While the title could have been fitting for a preservation conference, Architecture Matters actually brought together a diverse group of architects, urbanists, engineers, city planners, government officials, developers and technologists to discuss forward looking ideas for the built environment. Reduce, reuse, recycle, and the circular construction dominated the discussion across different scales, from city planning to new materials, and tech startups.
Is new construction becoming the exception rather than the norm? Can “waste“ be transformed into a new building material? Affordable housing versus climate protection? How do we shape the entire life cycle of buildings? How can we account for grey energy honestly? How does carbon-neutral concrete work? Where can we gather new insights, and where can we rediscover valuable traditional knowledge for the future? And how do we collaboratively navigate this complex process of change?
To look into the future is important to understand the past and Julian Nida-Rümelin, philosopher and former Minister of State for Culture, opened the conference with a compelling reflection on how we evolved through history until this point, and how that shaped the current challenges that we face, from climate crisis to geopolitical issues.
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The conference, organized by plan A, also included active sessions that brought speakers and attendees togethers to discuss ideas for Munich, along with networking sessions for women in architecture and real estate.
Martha Thorne started the second day with a compelling lecture “Agents of Change.” Martha has gotten a unique perspective of the world of architecture, after being the Executive Director of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the former dean of the School of Architecture at the IE University, and currently a Senior Advisor at the Henrik F. Obel Foundation. Her views on sustainability aim to expand the notion that we have about the architecture profession. On the video below you can learn more about Martha’s insights as she is interviewed by plan A founder Nadin Heinich.
This big picture on sustainability set the tone for a group of startups and practitioners who are innovating across different stages of the construction cycle:
- Alcemy: The Berlin-based startup enables a completely new type of cement and concrete production. Less expensive, with less CO2 and consistently high quality.
- Concular: A start-up providing methodologies and tools to enable a circular real estate economy. Their circular material platform was used in the German Pavilion at the 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale.
- Seratech Cement: The winners of the 2022 Obel Award who are on a quest to produce carbon negative cement.
- tools for disassembly and reassembly.
- Rieder: Expert fabricator of glassfibre reinforced concrete facade and building elements, with extensive collaborations in the academic sector, unveiled the inner workings of their complex system and the different initiatives to reduce emissions.
- Block Research Group: Philippe Block and his team at the ETH have been working with some of the world's leading architects to develop structures that are smarter and have a lower embodied carbon. Their recent projects are great examples of how traditional construction techniques aided by technology can result in structures that shape a greener future for our built environment (presentation on the video above).
To close the conference, Reinier de Graf challenged the status quo of the industry by sharing his satirical reflections found in his latest book Architect, Verb: The New Language of Building, using the corporate language of consultants, developers, and planners – “those who confidently dictate how we should build in the future because they don’t have to implement it themselves.”
The book describes itself as “a quest for architecture to be architecture again, written in the sincere hope that, in ridding it of unsolicited baggage, our profession might one day re-emerge as an independent and critical discipline.”
De Graf is not just words, as he led the team of the recently announced winning scheme for the new UniCredit Headquarters in Munich.
We look forward to Architecture Matters 2024.