The UIA Charter for Built Environment Education for Children and Young People

As Romania’s representative on behalf of the Romanian Order of Architects (OAR) at the UIA Architecture and Children Work Programme of the International Union of Architects (UIA) since 2015, a group that brings together representatives of architects from around the world involved in projects dedicated to architecture and built environment education for children, with the aim of promoting this field and the exchange of good practices, we consider that it is our responsibility to put Romania on the map and to be at the forefront of initiatives that propose an integrated education that focuses on the built environment and architecture.

We are glad to have contributed to the Romanian translation of the “UIA Charter for Built Environment Education for Children and Young People, 2019 Edition” created at the initiative of the UIA Work Programme – Architecture and Children and which will be cosigned by UNESCO and ACE, to promote and support urgent action and development in the field of Built Environment Education (BEE) worldwide.

The Charter forms the basis for dedicated actions by architects and educators engaged in providing environment education to children and young people around the world. This has at its source the awareness of the responsibility that we, as professionals, carry and owe to these future participants in the creation of the built environment that we share. The UIA Charter can be found in Romanian, English and Korean on the UIA website, here, and on the De-a arhitectura website in Romanian, here.

Ewa Struzynska, architect, French member and former director of the UIA Work Programme – Architecture and Children, accepted our invitation to learn more about the UIA Charter and how it was created, and answered us in November, from Paris.

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An observation post

Co-director, then director of the International Union of Architects (UIA) Work Programme (WP) Architecture & Children for so many years gave me the opportunity to have a good overview on the situation and context of Built Environment Education (BEE) around the world.
Contact with very many architects, professional organizations and BEE associations or BEE actors was a great privilege.
It started in 2005 in Istanbul, Turkey, at the UIA International Congress and continued every 3 years at the next UIA congresses, on different continents where architects from all over the world met (Torino, Italy; Tokyo, Japan; Durban, South Africa; Seoul, South Korea) and with invitations in many countries, 2 times a year, for our WP meetings (Europe, South America, Russia etc) – it kept on during more than 15 years.

The UIA WP kept growing from 5 people/countries to more than 30 over the years. Each member and guest coming to our group was/is a reporter of its national BEE state. The info he (she) brings is very precious and allows having a full picture of positive and negative BEE experiences and a snapshot of the worldwide situation.
As the director of the UIA Work Programme I had a very privileged look-out post to record the state and scope of BEE in most countries.

Context

The observation drove to two main conclusions:

  • Many countries did not have BEE at all!
  • The ones that did where not equal and actors performed very solely, with little or no help and support – nor moral or financial – from their professional organization and authorities; with few exceptions (some European countries and in Chicago, USA).

And a very striking situation

Despite populations growing and growing in cities everywhere in the world (80% will live in cities around 2050!), the authorities and governments do not show a supportive attitude (political & budget) for the BEE education, it is clearly for the time being not their top priority?!

Why a charter

BEE is not a «government’s policy» for education out or a fortiori in schools.
When existing, it is still too often an unpaid and voluntary work driven by a personal will of a few very dedicated professionals and teachers.

Our responsibility

The quality of our built environment makes a difference and is a vital component of our health, co-existence and social exchange.

To decide of our future takes more than a job for architects, it is a job for the whole community. To achieve it, it is a matter of early education.

We can see it even more now, during these critical times, where a lot of new big problems are questioning us. New interrogations are coming up with the pandemic: how are we going to work, teach, communicate, live, go around, shop, travel etc?

As it is said in the Charter, the quality of the built environment cannot be planned, designed and made solely by architects; it is the product of us all – citizens, professionals, businesses, lawmakers – working together.

It is our responsibility – architects together with authorities and law makers – to direct our efforts toward initiating, encouraging and facilitating built environment education.

The Charter for Built Environment Education for Children and Young people was an evidence after having realized that BEE is an aching void in most policies of education in most countries in the world.

Launching

The Charter was created to promote and support urgent action and development in built environment education.

I worked on the structure of the Charter and was helped by members of the WP; we discussed it on meetings for more than three years.
A team was set up to finalize the document.

Experienced authors

The final authors of the Charter are experts in the field of architecture and BEE and members of the UIA WP Architecture & Children.

The international team is:

  • Ewa Struzynska, France, initiator of the Charter and former director of the UIA WP Architecture & Children
  • Mia Roth Cerina, Croatia, member of UIA WP Architecture & Children
  • Ann McNicholl, Ireland, former director of UIA WP Architecture & Children
  • Suzanne de Laval, Sweden, present co-director of UIA WP Architecture & Children
  • And the participation of all members of UIA WP Architecture & Children.

Endorsement

When finalized it was submitted and approved by the UIA General Assembly representing more than 120 countries. It is destined to be published widely and make good use of it by professional organizations and educators for action and take up in national policies.

The Charter constitutes a framework providing direction and guidance to governments, authorities, institutions, architects and teachers involved in founding, creating and implementing BEE.

Adoption & countersignature

The Charter is a document that we share with institutions involved with built environment, education and sustainable development – for this we invite institutions concerned to partake in cosigning the document.

For its legitimacy and impact the Charter is to be adopted by the great majority.

At the moment, we asked UNESCO and ACE to co-sign the Charter, we are expecting more institutions to cosign as DOCOMOMO, UMAR, UN Habitat etc.

Takeover & carry out

It is urgent and vital for spreading BEE that every country gets possession of the Charter through all organs of governments and professional organizations and implements its objectives now.

Revision

The Charter will be revised periodically taking in account changes and evolutions of our world.

Paris, November 10th 2020

*The article can be read in Romanian, here.

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