Emina Kovacic, chairman of the board, of Architects Sweden (Sveriges Arkitekter) on the value of architecture, its contribution to society and how to protect it – and the world around it.

When we travel, we often choose—whether consciously or unconsciously—to visit well-designed architecture. We are drawn to buildings, interiors, plazas, waterfronts, and parks that stand out from the rest for their unique design, their refined proportions, or the richness of their materials and detailing, but also for the way they smell, the connection they give us to nature, or their charming historical milieu.

We are attracted by innovative contemporary living environments as well as older ones of cultural and historical interest. What they have in common almost invariably is that they are designed with high-quality architecture based on a strong idea that is rooted in human behaviour.

Sometimes, it can be hard to describe what it is that attracts us to these places—it’s the sum of many different parameters that stimulate the mind through all of our senses. Many of these places also have in common that they attract other people too, because we experience them as open, inviting, and democratic. They give us a deep sense of beauty.

In recent years, places all over the world have been assailed by the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the consequences of climate change such as fire, erosion, and flooding. These events have disrupted our travel patterns, but more importantly, they have reminded us that there are values we must continue to defend collectively.

Architecture and cultural historical environments are obvious targets in armed conflicts because of how linked they are with our identity and sense of belonging. Many cultural heritage sites are also threatened by extreme weather events driven by climate change.

If we want to keep travelling—to experience good architecture, precious natural environments, and innovative design in other parts of Europe and the rest of the world—we must continue to defend democracy and work together to reduce our impact on the climate. By taking on the consequences of climate change and standing up for free and open societies in our everyday lives, the world around us can flourish—and with it our creativity as well!

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