High-speed architecture which delivers enjoyment

A hectic lifestyle? In need of some deceleration?

All I seem to do is wait. I wait in traffic jams, I wait for my wife to call me and I wait for my tax refund. This apparent calmness is, however, merely another form of our high-speed existence. Which brings us to the question of the relationship between the general tempo at which our world operates and our own individual speed within the built environment and our architecture. I recall discussing this issue amongst others with an architectural colleague in June this year, satiated after a day of a programme of architecture. But where were we?

alpitecture code 2-10

The name alpitecture stands for architectural understanding, architectural quality and a craftsmanship based approach to modern contemporary architecture which encompasses everything from the design stage to the finished building. Amongst its other activities, alpitecture specifically focuses on construction related issues in the Alps in the autonomous Province of Bolzano in South Tyrol. alpitecture brings architects and companies together, and targeted invitations were issued to architects from Europe for this purpose. What is the nature of the role played by modern architecture in South Tyrol? What are the resentments with which the people there need to contend? What contributions can our colleagues from the international architectural scene make in order to ensure that the architecture and the culture of the built environment within the region remains one step ahead at all times? These were the specific questions which were addressed in South Tyrol by 37 expert architects from 7 nations on the hottest day of June 2010.

Many buildings exhibiting a new and pleasing stylistic form have been erected in South Tyrol over the last 10 years. These constructions have been publicised in the international specialist press. Repeatedly. In rapid succession. Castello Firmiano, for example, which features the Messner Mountain Museum constructed by the architect Werner Tscholl in 2005. This is characterised by a reticent and reversible form of architecture which is required to make it possible to operate the museum in the first place. There is also the cogeneration plant in Bressanone, designed by Modus Architects and dating from 2007.  We could continue to name committed architects in South Tyrol for a considerable period – these would include Walter Angones, Höller & Klotzner Architekten, Matteo Thun, Werner Tscholl, arch.TV, Abram & Schnabel etc.

Outline presentations informed the invited architects about the culture of the built environment in South Tyrol, extending the status of knowledge beyond such familiar South Tyrolean attributes as fruit, bacon, wine and the Dolomites. Things then became extremely specific during an excursion to the quality architecture of recent years. Each building visited bore testimony of its architectural objective down to the technical details in terms of the idea of realising the needs of the user at the location. The thirst of the participants for innovative expertise was directly stilled in the partner companies. After so much information on building and culture within the region, the participants had an opportunity to use the knowledge they had brought from various locations across for specific workshop tasks relating to architecture in South Tyrol.

One of the workshops was entitled “Commercial zones and industrial estates”. An acceptable volume of construction cannot be developed until nature has been recognised as a resource and integrated into the planning context. Instead of enabling industrial estates to expand and proliferate, development opportunities involving the interplay of all forces involved are opening up in South Tyrol. A similar result was reached by the participants who dealt with the topic of the “Over-development of village structures and natural areas”. The starting point of the analysis was a so-called “viles” (a village or hamlet), the typical compact settlement structure of Ladin valleys. The conclusion reached by the workshop “Integrative architecture and energy systems” was that there should be a move away from individual buildings towards integrated planning”. A mix of work, residential and leisure uses can bring about an enhancement to the industrial area of Bolzano South.

South Tyrolean architects and architectural enthusiasts were invited to listen to a presentation on “UNStudio design model: key functions in architecture” given by UNStudio partner Astrid Piber before taking part in a podium discussion with international colleagues.

The permanent willingness of the population of South Tyrol to prepare for the future has its roots in the history of the region. This is the area where the strengths of this small region of rich traditions are to be found, a region where companies are making preparations for international competition and using their know-how as a vehicle for success.