Swiss capital, Berne, is site of the Schindler Award 2012
One of Europe's leading architectural competitions, the Schindler Award, is to take place for the first time in Switzerland. The central theme of the competition is "Access for All", a design philosophy characterized by inclusiveness and barrier-free mobility for people of all ages and capabilities.
The Schindler Award is an excellent opportunity for graduating architects to have their designs judged by a professional jury. It is open to architecture students who are either in their last year on a bachelor's course or attending a master's course at a European university or school of architecture.
The small and charming Swiss capital, Berne, is at the focus of the Schindler Award 2012. With a population of just 131,000, Berne has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983 and ranks among the world’s top ten cities for best quality of life. The old town boasts one of Europe's longest covered shopping promenades with more than six kilometers of arcades and buildings dating back to the early 15th century.
The site chosen for the Schindler Award 2012 stands in stark contrast to the rest of the old town, with its excellently preserved medieval buildings. Lying at the northwest corner, just two-minutes walk from the Central Train Station, the site has its treasures - notably the Museum of Fine Arts and the nearby Aare River – but these must share the space with an unsightly parking area and an imposing railway bridge.
On one side of the main thoroughfare is a tangle of streets, one of which is home to the city's drug dispensary for heroin addicts; on the other is the graffiti-covered "Reitschule" Cultural Center, which stages rock concerts, cinema and agitprop (political) theater.
The students will have to make better use of the public space and integrate urban repair ideas into their planning while also incorporating the various cultural and fringe groups that have settled in the area. The idea is to propose a new master plan in order to raise utilization and density in the perimeter without excluding any of the existing social institutions, and to improve overall quality and accessibility of the public area.
A new approach
Launched in 2004, the Schindler Award is a biannual competition that seeks to change the way young architects approach their work. It challenges them to think beyond form, light and materials and to focus on the needs of the people who will eventually inhabit the structures and spaces that they design.
It has the goal of improving access and overall mobility for all city dwellers, irrespective of their age, status or physical capabilities. In 2010, the competition attracted 1,394 applications from 180 schools in 34 European countries. It also encourages schools of architecture to incorporate "Access for All" into their curricula, by awarding schools' prizes.
The Schindler Award is held under the patronage of the Schindler Group. Founded in Switzerland in 1874, the Schindler Group is a leading global provider of elevators, escalators and related services. Its innovative and environmentally-friendly access and transit-management systems make an important contribution to mobility in urban societies.