Davos Declaration and Concept of Baukultur

IAS Prelims 2023

In January 2018, European Ministers of Culture met in Davos, Switzerland, to adopt a Declaration promoting the concept of a high-quality Baukultur in Europe. This step forward is congratulated by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, particularly as urban heritage on the World Heritage List exceeds 40% of the total sites.

The adoption of the Declaration, which specifies guidelines for policies to protect urban heritage through highlighting the role of culture, is in line with UNESCO policies which state that the conservation of urban heritage in all its forms can only be achieved through a holistic approach.

Like UNESCO’s Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL), adopted in 2011, the Declaration promotes an integrated approach to the urban environment, emphasizing the importance of cultural diversity and of traditional knowledge, and addressing historic layers of a city together with contemporary development. The Davos Declaration also emphasizes the concept of Baukultur, or the culture unique to an urban ensemble.

The Davos Declaration emphasises the central role of culture in the quality of our living environment. It reminds that building is culture and creates space for culture.

Taking a holistic approach, the joint responsibility of politics and society for the built environment is stressed and a European policy of achieving high-quality Baukultur is called for.

The built environment has a significant impact on the wellbeing and quality of life of all residents of an area. It is of crucial importance for social interaction and cohesion, and for creativity and people’s identification with the locality.

Ensuring the high-quality development of existing settlement areas and the careful treatment of the landscape are among the central challenges faced by society today and the Baukultur of the future.

The quality of cities, towns, villages and landscapes is under pressure; urban sprawl, faceless agglomerations and rampantly growing traffic areas have a negative impact on society. The goal is to develop European policies that aim to achieve a long-term improvement in the way the built environment is designed in future.

The theme of the conference will be revisited at the Annual Meeting of the WEF.

By organising the conference to mark the European Year of Cultural Heritage, Switzerland emphasises the importance of Baukultur. This includes both architectural heritage and contemporary design and construction.

At a national level, a similar endeavour, adhering to the principles voiced in the Declaration, is already underway.

As part of the 2016-2020 Culture Dispatch, the Federal Government has decided to develop a Baukultur Strategy, which will be completed by 2020.

High-quality Baukultur is therefore expressed in the application of conscious, well-debated, high-quality design to all building and landscaping activities, ensuring that cultural values are placed centre-stage and human social and cultural needs are satisfied.

The objective of high-quality Baukultur is to create and maintain a high-quality built environment. This quality promotes crucial societal values such as improvements in the quality of life, wellbeing, social cohesion and social integration. High-quality Baukultur provides affordable, decent housing, including vibrant and habitable neighbourhoods, and creates the conditions for the generation of positive economic added value.

Three central aspects define the overall concept of Baukultur underlying the conference and declaration:

1) The existing construction, including cultural heritage assets, and contemporary creation must be understood as a single entity. The existing construction provides an important Baukultur reference for the future design of our built environment.

2) All activities with an impact on the built environment, from detailed craftsmanship to the planning and execution of infrastructure projects that have an impact on the landscape, are expressions of Baukultur.

3) Baukultur not only refers to the built environment but also to the processes involved in its creation.