Travel can be simultaneously uplifting and thought provoking. A case in point was my recent visit to Copenhagen to attend Dedicated to Architecture, a conference hosted by our colleagues at the Danish Architecture Centre.
Copenhagen is a place where well designed buildings are the last pieces in a very big jigsaw. The rest of the jigsaw includes spectacular new infrastructure, seamlessly integrated land-use and transport planning and a truly civic vision that champions design quality at all scales and is supported by all responsible for its delivery. It shows what can be done but it can seem that making places like Ørestad remains a pipe dream for us.
Happily, the conference dispelled any such pessimism by highlighting the role architecture centres can play in engaging people and helping them participate in the design of their places. The discussion over the two days explored what difference architecture centres can make, what techniques can be employed to do so and how these techniques can be adapted to suit different contexts. This underlined that while we have much to learn about delivering better places, we are better served than many in having a clear policy framework, led by the Architecture Policy, within which to work. Ultimately, the conference showed how working over long periods can build wider appreciation of the benefits of good design and reminded us that contrary some caricatures, people can and do learn to value good design.
The conference has also allowed us to build links with partner organisations many of whom face the same challenges as we do around resources, content and understanding the impact of our work. This was particular true for the Nordic centres who are interested in the opportunity to build a network whose members each have something to offer and something to learn. In this way it seems that there is a positive but changed role for architecture centres in the years ahead.