The Braillard Architects Foundation considers that our critical challenge today is to make our built environment sensitive and adaptable to rapid climate change, while ensuring better resource management. Only a better understanding of the relationship between architecture, urban society and the environment can nurture a new generation of professionals and experts capable of achieving sustainable development.
With this objective, the Braillard Architects Foundation and its partners are launching the multi-year research and culture programme called The Eco-Century Project®: architecture, city and landscape through the prism of planetary resources. This interdisciplinary action questions the links between forms, functions and values of our built environment with regard to ecological transition.
Established in Geneva in 1987, the Braillard Architects Foundation develops its activities in favour of a quality built environment. In this, it follows the ideals of the architects Braillard who pursued throughout the twentieth century the quest for a city that is well designed, harmonious and source of well-being.
The Braillard Architects Foundation recognizes the current challenges that the accelerated urbanization of our planet poses to ecological balance. Cities that are well designed, managed and inhabited are the only way to achieve the objectives of sustainable development, while providing a dignified life for the soon to be 7 billion urban dwellers.
Indeed, learning to differently build, maintain and inhabit our buildings, our cities and our territories is a priority issue for our future on Earth. A new architectural, urban and landscape culture is born to accompany the project of another human presence in the biosphere: resource-efficient and respectful of biodiversity, on the one hand; taking into account individuals, their cultural diversity and historical depth, but also contemporary technical and economic complexities, on the other hand.
Seizing this dynamic rife with new synergies, the Braillard Architects Foundation launches, together with its consortium of partners (Canton and Republic of Geneva, Federation of Swiss Architects (FAS), Swiss Federation of Urban Planners (FSU), Swiss Heritage Society, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Rentes Genevoises, Veolia Environment), the multi-year research and culture programme The Eco-Century Project®: Architecture, city and landscape through the prism of planetary resources. The programme questions the future of relationships between the disciplines of spatial planning and planetary resources: water, air, energy, soil, food and waste.
The COP21 held in Paris in December 2015 concluded with a historic agreement on the measures to be taken in the face of global warming, specifically indicating the urban challenge as one of the major worksites of the twenty-first century. Life sciences, experimental and exact sciences, human and social sciences collectively respond to this challenge by developing a new gnoseological action plan.
The disciplines linked to spatial planning – architecture, town planning, construction and landscaping – cannot remain on the side-lines of this development that is often described as a “paradigm shift”: data, concepts and working methods evolve rapidly to meet urgent needs.
A central problem is now emerging in laboratories, workshops and training facilities: the management of resources, which are becoming scarce at the same rate as the human ecological footprint increases. Make no mistake: fresh water, land, energy, raw materials are not just quantitative data to “save” when constructing our living environment, they are also complex value systems, indicators of life and well-being. In other words, urban civilization is called upon to invent new relationships between its ways of life and planetary resources.
The interdisciplinary research programme The Eco-Century Project® invites (fundamental, applied) research to reformulate questions, invent investigative methods and envisage possible answers to the complex challenges raised by resource management, as much when creating inhabited space as in its practices as well.
To think of architecture, city and landscapes through the prism of energy is to question all environments – past, present and future – with novel hypotheses, transformed vocabularies, innovative and perhaps still fledgling systems. Nevertheless, these “clumsy beginnings” of creation have always accompanied change and innovation, and many consider this prism as representative of the future of our intentions and our creations.
The programme is based on three main questions:
- How to reconcile the hopes of a new life close to nature with our humanist project? How to transform the principles, manifests and programmes that have inspired the modernity of the twentieth century into drivers of the ecological transition? What are the characteristics of these new “Sustainable utopias”?
- How can the intelligence of architecture and town planning be oriented and adapted to better respond to the increasingly acute and frequent disasters of our time? How can the disciplines of space transformation be renewed thanks to a project defined by the humanitarian emergencies of the twenty-first century?
- If the twentieth century started with a minimal response to social needs for a dignified life under the term “Existenzminimum” (minimum/minimal subsistence dwelling), what will be that of the twenty-first century to our needs for a harmonious, measured and optimal relationship with the environment? What qualities in terms of architecture, urbanism and landscaping will our “Existenzoptimum”?