Along with our planet and its people, architecture faces great challenges.Environmental degradation and human poverty result in part from building and development patterns that destroy heritage, degrade habitat, squander resources and perpetuate socioeconomic imbalances.
If we hope to counteract these forces, we must stop the indiscriminate destruction of natural landscapes and agricultural land. We must build responsibly, and we must build well. The built environment is part of the problem, but through the potential of planning, architecture and design, it is also a crucial part of the solution.
Architecture interacts with every one of the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals, not just on an aspirational level, but through realized buildings, settlements and cities all over the world. Architectural solutions are already there, contributing to sustainable communities and quality of life.
We know that design and creative energy can make great contributions to the pressing global challenges of our time. That is the very basis of innovation, the theme of this General Assembly. We implore our partners in this endeavor—governments, civil society and the private sector—to help us contribute to this work.
Every year, we lose hundreds of thousands of precious acres to automobile-dependent exurban sprawl, with enormous social, environmental, health and economic costs. Yet the exurban wastelands continue to grow and, at the same time, we face human need and poverty at a staggering scale—much of it concentrated in informal settlements that are now part of many large cities. At least one billion people on our planet live in makeshift housing.
The UIA represents more than 3 million architects all over the world. We embrace UN Habitat’s New Urban Agenda as our own, we endorse the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and we pledge to achieve “carbon neutrality” in our communities and buildings.
In partnership with governments, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector and civil society, we call on the architectural community to:
— Provide basic services for all people, including housing, safe drinking water, sanitation, nutritious food, healthcare, education, culture and access to communications.
— Ensure equal opportunity, taking into account the needs of women, youth and children, people with disabilities, marginalized groups, older persons, indigenous people, and others.
— Promote cleaner cities by tackling urban air pollution, using renewable energy deploying “green” public transport systems and caring for natural resources.
— Strengthen cities and settlements against disasters through better planning, stronger infrastructure and faster, more effective response systems.
— Accommodate refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons, recognizing that migration poses challenges but also brings contributions.
— Promote safe and accessible public spaces, increasing sidewalks, cycling lanes, gardens, squares and parks.
— Assist the poorest among us to build better housing and assist with basic steps to improve self-built housing in dense, largely unregulated urban settings
— Reduce the natural resources used in the building industry, to help meet the enormous human and material demands, while adverting the dangers that threaten our planet
The world urgently needs effective solutions; we need designs for cities and buildings that improve all lives, not only the lives of the wealthy or fortunate.
We offer new approaches to architecture and planning that upend the damaging patterns of the past and the present, and we call on all of you to join us developing solutions and contributing to their realization; not tomorrow, but today.
To move towards sustainability in the built environment, we need a broad range of new solutions, each adapted to local climate, culture and challenges, and we need them not as ideas, but on the ground, implemented and in use. It is through realized buildings, settlements and planning that we will achieve results; both for the environment and for our quality of life.
It truly matters how people build, where, and at what cost to humans and the environment. We therefore pledge to hold the following goal at the core of our actions: To build better cities for the benefit of all, while conserving our resources and using them wisely.
Please join us.
Download the UIA Architecture Guide to the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals