IBA’27 and the coronavirus crisis

Search for the future of the city region continues

In view of the current restrictions and concerns caused by the coronavirus, it is understandable if the continuation of the long-term IBA’27 project is not foremost in everyone’s minds. Our top priority here at IBA’27 is likewise to emerge well and healthy from this pandemic, so the IBA’27 Team has taken corresponding protective measures.

In recent weeks we have transformed the IBA’27 office into a virtual office. We are using new tools to communicate and are learning to organise our team virtually. This requires a great deal of effort and it is not yet a fail-safe system. But we are getting used to it, and in some areas maybe we are even concentrating more on what really matters while also learning to appreciate the value of human interaction at the same time. The ›I‹ in IBA’27 stands for ›International‹, and this has a whole new meaning now. We are engaging even more intensively than before with our trustees who are unable to travel. We are talking to potential jury members, chambers of architects and planning teams around the globe and thinking about how we can use digital communication technology creatively to be able to host even a large-scale event such as our plenary session in May as a virtual event.

At present we are unable and unwilling to think about the consequences for living and working together as well as for urban planning, because we don’t know enough yet about what a post-corona world will look like and how long the restrictions will last. However, many projects have presented the issue of whether proceedings can still even be carried out as before, whether we can still ensure public consultation and whether we should postpone competitions and stop ongoing processes. In our view, this would be a big mistake.

Enough things have ground to a halt already, and enough people are already struggling to keep afloat financially. It is the fragmented planning and creative scene in particular that is at risk of major losses. We are convinced that we would do a disservice to the project teams working on competitions if we were to discontinue or postpone procedures, even though they too have to work under difficult conditions at present. And we assume that everyone will understand if our original plans need to be adapted in light of current circumstances.

IBA’27 has always spoken about transformation from the ground up that our society needs to achieve in the coming years. It goes without saying that we didn’t imagine it like this. But there is no reason not to continue to reflect on the future of the region and to look for new ways of making our cities and villages more futureproof and more resilient. As a result, we are delighted to still be receiving project proposals even in these changed times. Last week we exceeded the 100-entry mark.

We can now find new and perhaps even better answers to the difficult question of how to include the public in the consultation process. The asynchronous mode that a virtual platform often creates forces us to formulate more precise questions and weigh up our answers more carefully. Planning teams have to learn even more to explain their spatial concepts in a way that non-experts can understand and respond to. And maybe it will also be possible to address target groups that could not be reached using established methods.

We are very excited about these changes. As a special format, the IBA is particularly suited to experiments and new approaches. Let’s take advantage of this time and perhaps an altered perspective to connect and communicate mindfully and respectfully with one another!

Stay safe and optimistic!

Yours sincerely,

Andreas Hofer and the entire IBA’27 team

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