Shaping European Cities

Shaping European Cities

The EU Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe award is considered by the architects themselves as the second most prestigious in the world, after the Pritzker Prize. The Prize was created in 1988 through collaboration between the European Commission and the Mies van der Rohe Foundation in Barcelona and is currently supported by the EU Creative Europe programme.

The Directorate General Education and Culture of the European Commission is organising an exhibition on the 2015 Prize, which will be held in Bozar, Brussels from 15 September to 1 November, bringing together models, photos and video material about the 40 most remarkable architecture projects built in Europe in the last 2 years.  “Shaping European Cities” is the opening event of the exhibition, aimed at strengthening the dialogue between policymakers, architects and a wider audience about the role of quality architecture as a key element for regenerating European cities, and opening up potential new paths for collaboration. The format will be a series of short and high-impact talks followed by debates.

The mains objective of the event are:

  • To raise awareness amongst EU policymakers and the broader public of the importance of quality architecture in the process of shaping more ethical, fairer, greener and economically sustainable cities.
  • To raise awareness among public bodies and European decision makers of the fact that cities need investment in order to keep them competitive, attractive for youth employment and reinforce a local and European identity.
  • To explore new ways of collaboration between policy-makers and architects.


To reach these objectives 3 moderated panels will take place:

Panel 1: City economy and energy resilience

Panel 2: Social balance and living together

Panel 3: Democratic change for the cities of tomorrow

The conference will count with the presence of the following speakers:

Anna Lisa Boni, Secretary General of EUROCITIES.
Belinda Tato, Architect, co-founder and co-director of ecosistema urbano.
Julien De Smedt, Architect, founder and director of JDS Architects
– Halldór Guðmundsson, Director of Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre
– Kristian Skovbakke Villadsen, Partner in Gehl Architects.
Paola Viganò, founder of Studio Associato Bernardo Secchi Paola Viganò
– Jarosław Bondar, Szczecin City Architect
– Barbara Lemke, European Investment Bank
Jan Olbrycht, Member of the European Parliament
Martine Reicherts, Director-General for Education and Culture, European Commission
Normunds Popens, Deputy Director General for Regional Policy, European Commission
Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport

European cities are laboratories for experimentation and innovation at economic, social, environmental, and cultural level, where endless challenges and opportunities for sustainable development coexist. The European Commission intends to play a full role in supporting sustainable urban development in Europe, through its new priorities set by President Jean Claude Juncker, as well as initiatives such as the EU Urban Agenda.

At the same time, when we say “cities”, we also mean “architecture” and “architects”, as their task it often is to be moderators between conflicting needs and concerns in the shaping of cities. Moreover, architects are often asked by decision makers to create visions for the future, to identify the direction in which our cities should go, to shape new identity values. The contribution of architecture to this policy process, and in building a future vision for Europe, needs to be fully recognised. The dialogue between policymakers and architects can help both sides to imagine and ultimately to create better cities for tomorrow.


Europe is one of the most urbanised continents of the world, with more than two-thirds of its population living in cities. Urban areas play an essential role in what makes Europe a great continent to live in: being centres for creativity and innovation; for social progress and democracy; for diversity, intercultural dialogue and living together; for job and growth creation; for green regeneration. European cities are a major factor in defining our continent’s place in the world, its uniqueness, as well as in boosting its attractiveness as a place to live, work, and visit.

However, it is also in cities that we find concrete expressions of the economic, demographic, social and environmental crises that the European model endures today, such as growing income disparities and pauperisation; ageing populations; social and spatial segregation; energy overconsumption; the rise of xenophobia and racism; and democratic deficit.

How can we tackle this at the European level? In the new Commission priorities set by President Jean Claude Juncker, there are several objectives in which the promotion of quality architecture in urban development have an important role to play, in terms of contributing to jobs and growth creation, the social market economy, place branding, energy efficiency and democratic change. The new investment plan that will allocate 315 bn € for the real economy can be an important vector for addressing some of these challenges.

At the same time, a dialogue is taking place in between individual cities, and among decision makers, including at European level, through European Cities Forums and consultation processes on the Urban Agenda, networks such as the European Capitals of Culture, Eurocities, and so on.

What can be observed is that cities with a high quality of life and with urban resilience are the ones which attract creative talent and therefore economic, social, human and cultural capital. European cities are constantly under transformation: they shrink, spread, densify, decentralise… In this permanent mutation process, the vision of the decision makers at various levels of the public sector is a key element to addressing these changes. They are the ones able to understand urban development holistically, while defending citizens’ rights. The welfare of city residents can be improved only if there is a public sector vision of the city aimed at improving living standards and quality of life in terms of housing, public space, mobility, identity-building and better coexistence.

Architecture is a discipline essential to urban development. Architecture builds cities at both ends of the scale from urban planning to the smaller details, while at the same time shaping our identities. Through education, dialogue and public participation, quality architecture transversally strengthens the place of democracy in the future of European cities. Moreover, choices need to be made about how many directions we want to be competitive in: reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, welfare, reasonable energy consumption, tourism… This is the departure point of the discussion.

The European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award can bring a precious insight into this debate. The Prize understands architecture in a holistic way, connecting it with the societal, cultural and economic debates of Europe. The almost 3.000 works nominated for the Prize so far represent the most important archive of high-quality contemporary European architecture. The Prize thus testifies to the richness of European innovative design solutions which have become global references, because they have been able to adapt to many changes, including globalisation.

We consider that the growth of urban areas can be constructive. Concentration and density allow a better control of energy consumption and waste management through urban planning and properly built environmental organisation structures. Moreover, architectural solutions exist to foster growth, social inclusion, democratic participation and – ultimately – individual and societal well-being for city residents.


Anna Lisa Boni, Secretary General of EUROCITIES

(born in Bologna, living in Brussels)

Anna Lisa Boni
Anna Lisa has 20 years of professional experience in EU public affairs in the field of local and regional government. She was director of the Brussels office of the French region Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur and worked for the city of Bologna in Italy, with European and international networks and the European Parliament. She has a Master’s degree in political science from the Bologna University and in European studies from the University of Leuven.

EUROCITIES is the network of major European cities founded in 1986 by the mayors of six large cities: Barcelona, Birmingham, Frankfurt, Lyon, Milan and Rotterdam. It brings together the local governments of over 130 of Europe’s largest cities and 40 partner cities that between them govern 130 million citizens across 35 countries. Its objective is to reinforce the important role that local governments should play in a multilevel governance structure. EUROCITIES aims to shape the opinions of Brussels stakeholders and ultimately shift the focus of EU legislation in a way that allows city governments to tackle strategic challenges at local level.

Barbara Lemke, European Investment Bank

Barbara_Lemke 3

Barbara Lemke is a senior urban planning and development specialist at the EIB since 2007, where her duties include the full spectrum of activities associated with urban sector policy analysis and project appraisal including, especially, social and affordable housing. Her project activities are covering the whole project cycle from preparation and supervision of technical assistance assignments to due diligence of proposed investments and implementation follow up. Barbara is an EIB member of external working groups such as the Urban Development Group of the EU Presidency and a Housing Finance working group on Africa. Prior to joining the Bank she enjoyed considerable experience in both the public and private sectors (e.g. real estate development of Brownfield sites), and her EIB project portfolio includes numerous projects in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. She has degrees from the Technical University in Berlin and the Albert-Ludwigs-University in Freiburg im Breisgau, and was a postgraduate student in Regional and Urban Planning studies at University College Dublin.

Belinda Tato, Architect, co-founder and co-director of ecosistema urbano

(born and living in Madrid)

Belinda Tato
Established in 2000, ecosistema urbano is a Madrid-based group of architects and urban designers working on urbanism, architecture, engineering and sociology. They define their approach as urban social design, by which they understand the design of environments, spaces and dynamics to improve the self-organisation of citizens, social interaction within communities, and communities’ relationship with the environment. Ecosistema urbano has used this philosophy to design and implement projects in Norway, Denmark, Spain, Italy, France, and China.

Their most recent projects include the new building for the Reggio Children Foundation in Reggio Emilia, Italy; an experimental urban playground in Dordrecht, Netherlands; the ‘Ecopolis Plaza’, a waste-to-resources building on the outskirts of Madrid; and the Dreamhamar project in Hamar, Norway: a network design project for the redevelopment of the city’s main public space.

Julien De Smedt, Architect, founder and director of JDS Architects

Julien’s commitment to the exploration of contemporary architecture has helped to re-energize the discussion of the practice with projects such as the VM Housing Complex, the Mountain Dwellings, the Maritime Youth House and the Holmenkollen Ski Jump.
Prior to founding JDS Architects, Julien worked with OMA /Rem Koolhaas and co-founded and directed with Bjarke Ingels  the architecture firm PLOT in Copenhagen.
Among other awards and recognitions, Julien received the Henning Larsen Prize in 2003, in 2004 the Stavanger   Concert Hall was appointed World’s Best Concert Hall at the Venice Biennale, and the Maritime Youth House won the AR+D award in London and was shortlisted for the EU Mies van der Rohe Prize. His academic contributions include visiting professorships in Rice and Lexington University. JDS Architects released 2 monographs entitled PIXL to XL and Agenda, which are distributed worldwide and since 2013 Julien De is also board member of Magazine A10.

Halldór Guðmundsson, Director of Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre

(born and living in Reykjavík)

Halldór Guðmundsson
Harpa, designed by Henning Larsen Architects, Studio Olafur Eliasson and Batteríid architects, received the 2013 EU Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award.

Before being appointed director for Harpa, Halldór was director of “Fabulous Iceland – Guest of Honour of the Frankfurt Book Fair 2011“. The project was considered a successful guest of honour presentation at the world’s most important book fair and won various marketing prizes in Iceland, as well as Germany. For almost two decades Halldór was a publisher at Iceland´s largest literary publishing house. He is also an author of several books, among which a biography of Icelandic Nobel Prize winning author Halldór Laxness, translated into various languages and rewarded with the Icelandic Literary Prize for best non-fiction in 2004. Halldór’s experience in leading cultural organisations includes being a board member of the Reykjavík Arts Festival, RÚV national television and Meet in Reykjavík and vice- chairman of the National Theatre.

Kristian Skovbakke Villadsen, Partner in Gehl Architects

(born and living in Copenhagen)

Kristian Skovbakke Villadsen
Kristian’s role in Gehl architects spans from partaking in the political discussions to define city and project visions, to steering the process of identifying the policies, organizations and strategies needed to develop the vision. Kristian develops knowledge and projects focused on ‘people oriented development’ in Asia, Europe and North America. He successfully operates in different cultures and contexts, implementing best practice pilots capacity building. Kristian’s project experience has brought him from the modernist, often deprived housing areas of the world’s suburbs, to some of the most ambitious new and ongoing developments at the hearts of some of the biggest cities in Europe, the Americas and Asia. Whether it is about area revitalization, mobility or public space, Kristian always approaches it from a quality of life perspective.

Jarosław Bondar, Szczecin City Architect

(Born and living in Szczecin)

Jarosław Bondar
He graduated at the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Architecture, and is a research associate at the Department of Architectural Design of the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Architecture, West Pomeranian University of Technology in Szczecin.

He combines architectural practice (public utility and healthcare building construction) with scientific and didactic activities.

He has participated and won, together with the LA Laboratorium Architektury team, many architectural competitions. These awards include the 1st prize at the competition for “the Design of a Programme and Spatial Concept for a City Block in Police”, and the 1st prize at the national competition for the creation of a concept for the Centre for Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment in Szczecin,
Deputy President for Art of the Szczecin Branch of the Association of Polish Architects (2003-2006), Member of the Board of the Westpomeranian Regional Chamber of Architects (2002-2010), Member of the Management Board of the Szczecin Branch of the Association of Polish Architects (2006-2007 and 2011-2014), since January 2014 he is the Architect of the City of Szczecin.

Jan Olbrycht, Member of the European Parliament


Martine Reicherts, Director-General for Education and Culture, European Commission


Normunds Popens, Deputy Director General for Regional Policy, European Commission

Normund Popens

Normunds Popens is currently Deputy Director General for Implementation in the Directorate General Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission in charge of overseeing the implementation of structural and cohesion fund programmes in EU member states and candidate countries. Before joining the European Commission in March 2011 he has occupied several posts in the Latvian diplomatic services. Notably from 2007 till 2011 he was a Permanent Representative of Latvia to the EU. Before that he dealt with European affairs as Undersecretary of State of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He has been also responsible for the issues of foreign trade and transatlantic relations and has worked as an Ambassador in Norway, Iceland and in the USA as a diplomat.

Paola Viganò, founder of Studio Associato Bernardo Secchi Paola Viganò

(born in Sondrio, living in Milan)

Paola Viganò

Architect and urbanist, Paola is professor of Urbanism and Urban Design at the Università IUAV di Venezia and at the EPFL (Lausanne), where she directs the Laboratory in Urbanism (lab-U). In 2012 and 2013 she was visiting professor at GSD Harvard.

She has participated in several projects such as the recovery of the former refinery IP in La Spezia; the development of Hoog Kortrijk; the “Urban Park Areas Falck” in Sesto San Giovanni; and in 2000 she was selected for the international competition “Urban Park Tarello” in Brescia. In 2013 Paola Viganò was awarded the Grand Prix de l’Urbanisme and in 2015 the International Award of the “Belgian Building Award.” The project Hostel Wadi in De Hoge Rielen was shortlisted for the 2015 EU Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award.

Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport

Tibor Navracsics

Tibor Navracsics took up office as European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport on 1 November 2014.

Before becoming Commissioner, he held ministerial posts in successive Hungarian governments: as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Administration and Justice from 2010 to 2014, then as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade from June to September 2014.

Tibor Navracsics was a member of the Hungarian Parliament from 2006 until he became European Commissioner. He led the Fidesz Group between 2006 and 2010.

He holds a law degree and a doctoral degree in political science. In the 1990s, Tibor Navracsics started to teach at the University of Economics in Budapest. From 1997 until taking up office as European Commissioner, he taught at the Eötvös Loránd University’s Faculty of Law and Political Sciences in Budapest, where he became an associate professor in 2001.



September 15th


Bozar, Brussels

a collaboration between  logo-creative-europelogo-fundacio-mies