Source: AG Nekretnine | Wednesday, 20.01.2010.| 14:28
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(AG Real Estate) Hotel Industry - Architecture and Tourism in Transformation

At mid November 2009, the premier of FREI - Festival of Real Estate took place. During the three days of its performance, from 10-13 November, in Hotel Maestral in Budva, this show gathered domestic and international professionals as well as representatives of the high ranking state administration of Montenegro. All together, they discussed the topical situation of real estate development in Montenegro, whereas the international professionals represented their most recent designs and current studies. These lectures were a compressed contribution to further more efficient real estate development at the local market pointing out to specific problems to be avoided in the future.

Particular interest was incited by the concluding lecture of Professor Boris Podrecce on the theme of ’’Here or Anywhere – Architecture and Tourism in Transformation’’. The following text sublimates that lecture.

(Boris Podrecca)

When one considers the actual state of architecture in tourism, we are forced to think about the following:

There exists an uncertainty among consumers as a result of the banking crisis and shakiness of the market in general. Therefore exact forecasts are impossible to make, but a downturn in business and common travel can be expected. However, no other sector of the economy recovers as quickly as tourism. Even in times of crisis, during which one may forego expensive purchases, vacation maintains the highest level of significance and therefore high preference of consumption.

In the past year, Germans spent €58 billion for travelling abroad and €108 billion, almost a double amount, inside the country where environmental-consciousness and quality of architecture in tourism have improved. Despite economic downturn, the revenues from tourism are expected to rise from $600 bn in 2005 to $1,000 bn in 2010.

Architecture in Tourism

Since long ago architecture has become a fundamental element of marketing in the hotel industry. In spite of that, and in the midst of the current recession, flamboyant horror architecture with massive potential for environmental destruction is sprouting, predominantly in the new European democracies.

But situations like the current crisis offer the chance to rethink the market – investment – quality relationship, and to push innovative product ideas in all segments, especially architecture and the environment.

How can we, the architects, give our contribution so that tourism and architecture enter a deeper relationship and link with conceptual and regional cultural parameters?

Architectural discourse – I actually prefer archiculture in this context – can only be a guideline in the overarching tangle of the tourism sector and only incubate sustainable developments. If this is the case, what is missing?

1. Entrepreneurs, developers and operators lack the necessary experience with the application of high-value contemporary architecture

2. The positive effects that can be created by contemporary quality architecture are not known. This is due to inadequate training in this matter.

3. The responsibility for one’s own environment with respect to tourism architecture is not adequately communicated, promoted and protected by ethical and political bodies. Only the bare mercantile benefit of the project is communicated.

In the three German-speaking countries of Central Europe – Germany, Austria and Switzerland – the subject of quality prevails decisively to stress the positive of this dilemma. At a recent tourism conference over 80% of the interviewed persons agreed that contemporary architecture and its tradition in the regional identity are a decisive marketing factor.

Good architecture, its creative transformation of local building traditions, innovation, differentiation of topos and type, the correct measure of space and volume in specific and distinctive settings can permanently guarantee lifestyle and ‘zeitgeist’, spirit of the time and presence of media and visitors. The sensual perception of the calling card, the profile, is crucial.

Professor Podrecca's project in Block 11a in New Belgrade

Good architecture – which is what the educated consumer wants and expects – does not cost more. Billions are being squandered, predominantly in the countries of the former eastern block, for picturesque surrogate architecture, fake tympanons, doric columns – I call it historicised pornography and pseudo-modernist orgies of nouveau-riche taste. Alas, there is no architecture police, although killing of the nature or of cities – urbicide – weighs almost as heavily as homicide in its long-term effects.

Developers, but also planners are frequently the cause of archiculture turning badly. Popular brand-name superstars are hired, an Esperanto-architecture, which never reaches the level of local necessities, appropriates the landscape and contributes little to nothing to the regional architectural identity or to the strengthening of the local architectural community. The day-to-day business, with a few exceptions, is conducted in the banal, grey building practice.

Still, improvements

In this context, appropriate training, counselling programs for practitioners, architouristic education programs, corresponding events by private enterprises, thematic architecture lectures, and expert conferences need to be established. This is already happening in some emancipated countries.

Of course there are ambitious developers who use these mechanisms and convert quality into a marketing factor. Our experience with the BEKO project up to this point has shown that the client possesses the necessary understanding of archiculture.

In closing, I would like to remark that it is hardly possible to define building culture in a mono-centric way. It can only be understood as a pluralistic phenomenon. Building culture is life culture and as such can barely be governed by rules. The true target group is missing as well, because individual responsibility has become more fluid and diffuse. The originator of the eyesores (politics), the tormented maker of the object (architect), the guard of his return on investment (developer) exist as members of a society, which often – one does not have to travel far – confuses democracy with anarchy. A new culture-guidance-system needs to be developed, which is not governed apodictically by state and authorities, but links the protagonists and mediates between the hard-to-bridge worlds of administration, real estate industry and practitioners. It is necessary that the contingencies of building culture are accepted. Without the state as mediator, without individuals with quality standards and its steady thematization and support, future generations will regard us as the culprits of the destruction of the environment in many yet to be developed tourism areas.

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