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The Human Yardstick

Apr 30, 2014
What role does CIPRA play on the international architecture scene? Köbi Gantenbein on the subject of CIPRA's work with Constructive Alps, the competition for sustainable construction and renovation in the Alps.
Image caption:
Köbi Gantenbein (c) CIPRA International

CIPRA has two roles in the pan-Alpine Constructive Alps competition for sustainable construction and renovation. With virtuosic skill, CIPRA plays the networker role I have seen before. Five years ago the team in Schaan pulled the strings to persuade the Liechtenstein authorities to promote and help fund the competition as their contribution to the climate action goals of the Alpine Convention. The 2011 award was a great success. And for 2013, CIPRA pulled more strings to get the commitment of the Swiss. The Swiss Federal Office of Spatial Development played a brilliant part in staging the competition while the CIPRA team worked behind the scenes and dealt with more than twice the number of entries.
Virtuosic skill was also much in evidence in what for me was a new role for CIPRA - as architectural benchmarker in construction culture. Here the organisation pulled out all the stops to ensure that the complex process would succeed across all national and linguistic borders in the Alps and also orchestrated the actual debate on the subject. The focus on sufficiency introduced by CIPRA is a very recent addition to the dialogue of planners and architects. Good jury work is always an open dialogue within the confines laid down by the programme. The members of the jury each had their preferences - as engineer, aesthete or admirer of energy consumption ratings. At the end of the day, it was a wonderfully mixed combination of factors that determined the winning project.
In comparison with the first time the competition was held, the issue of sufficiency came across louder and clearer in 2013. The question "What do we really need to live a good life?" proved a severe test for many of the entries. CIPRA has already put this question on its agenda, and former Executive Director Andreas Götz, as a member of the 2013 jury, was a stubborn and successful advocate. This is important; sufficiency is good because it goes beyond technical and aesthetic feasibility and offers a human yardstick for architecture and urban planning.

Köbi Gantenbein
Editor in Chief of "Hochparterre" and member of the jury for Constructive Alps

Building with Hearts and Minds
With Constructive Alps 2013, Switzerland and Liechtenstein awarded the second international architecture prize for sustainable construction and renovation in the Alps. The competition is a contribution towards implementing the Alpine Convention's Action Plan on Climate Change in the Alps. The competition itself was organized by CIPRA. The thirty most attractive and climate-friendly new and renovated buildings can be admired in a travelling exhibition and also in a special issue of the architecture magazine "Hochparterre".


Source: Annual Report 2013, CIPRA International,