Interview President Europan


Thomas Sieverts is the president of Europan since some months.

Thomas Sieverts 

Born in 1934 in Hamburg, he has studied architecture and urban design in Stuttgart, Liverpool and Berlin. In 1965 he was co-founder of the ‘Freie Planungsgruppe Berlin’. He was professor for urban design in Berlin, Harvard, Stuttgart, Nottingham and Berkeley. From 1989 to 1994 he was director of the ‘International Building Exhibition Emscher Park’, In 1995/96 he worked as a fellow of the ‘Berlin Institute of Advanced Studies’. He coordinated several interdisciplinary research-works. From 1978 to 2005 he has run an office for urban design in Bonn. In 2010 he received the honourable doctorate in engineering from the Technical University Braunschweig.

He answered to our questions concerning the competition Europan11


What could be the reasons for a young european professional of urban design to participate to Europan?
Thomas Sieverts : I think a young professional has several good reasons for the participation in the ‘Europan 11 – Competition’, especially if he decides to chose a site outside his own country.
Europan offers the unique opportunity to contribute with a design-statement to the European professional debate on architecture and its role in society beyond the limits of national- and language-boundaries.
If successful, the winning contribution will hopefully, be realized and will be a substantial cornerstone in the professional career, as many career-reports of former Europan-winners prove.
But even if not realized, the publication and the public debate will in any case enhance the professional standing and will support strongly the personal professional career.
An even if not winning: In any case, the competition will provide ‘sportive fun’ and it will be an intellectual adventure to compete with so many colleagues from all over Europe in this peaceful battle for the best ideas, judged by a most competent international European jury.

What represent the sites in the competition?
Thomas Sieverts : The 49 sites proposed by the cities from 17 countries show a wide range of the different urban contexts and task, which are representing the present urban and architectural problems facing the communes. Nearly all of them can only be tackled by taking the special urban context into close consideration. They demonstrate that the main task of the young professional architect at present is to contribute to the transformation of the already exciting city.
The socio-economic and geographical background of the sites is quite different:

- Some sites are in economically and demographically shrinking regions, which will be a normal case in several countries in Europe. What will be the role of architecture in future, if there is no obvious demand anymore?
- Other sites represent the wide field of the periurban landscape of the ‘Zwischenstadt’ and questions about its qualification: Should it be urbanised in a traditional sense or should it be developed as special form of inhabited landscape?
- An important field in the public space in its different forms: What will public space mean for the future of our cities, in a globalised and digitalised world?

There are many attractive sites to choose for the young professional, and I think it would be especially rewarding to choose a site beyond the borders of one’s own countries!

Is itimportant that Europan competitions be followed by implementations of the winning ideas?
Thomas Sieverts : Europan started as PAN from 1972 to 1987 in France with the task of improving the quality of publicly subsidised housing, and it was the rule, that the winner got the commission to build. I think, Europan 11 must not give up this goal, for I think it is not enough to ‘qualify’ the young professional, if he wins, he is ‘qualified’!
But the tasks and the circumstances have changed. Nearly all the sites and their tasks nowadays – as proved by the sites offered in Europan 11 – concern the transformation of existing situations, the improvement of derelict urban contexts or the renewal of public space.
In this situation, it takes, in most cases many years from choosing a design-idea to realisation, to prepare the complex political and economic decisions necessary before a building-process can be started.
Europan needs to develop a new, extended meaning of (architectural) implementation. This extended meaning of implementation does not just mean the process of the building-design and the building-construction in its narrow sense, but also the conceptual work necessary before the actual building-process can be started. The design of the socio-political and socio-economic procedures necessary demands a new kind ‘procedural creativity’, which has become an integral part of the profession.