The Gestaltungsbeirat is a rare instance in a market driven society, because it concerns itself less with the metrics and more with the contents of the built environment, it deals with qualities rather than quantities. It brings together all actors involved in the realisation of the city – as the spatial expression of cultural, environmental, economic aspirations, the city that is being imagined and built now. It enables a dialogue on architecture as the medium of this translation. And while questioning proposals and means to achieve results, it is a constant interrogation of architecture itself – and its possibilities . The city of today, the tentatively named zones, areas, quartiers or Siedlungen – in other words a bunch of buildings that struggle to find an identity- comes under scrutiny. It is largely determined by financial -rather than intellectual- speculation, also a form of anticipating a possible outcome, but perhaps more limited in scope. The Gestaltungsbeirat is a reality check, where private interests, investors calculations and even political ambitions (the planners yardsticks), are tested for social consequence and environmental effect, for cultural and visual value. It is not merely a critical instance, it is a projective one. Architects are seen to bring visions, to be creative and challenging. Serving in the Gestaltungsbeirat in Salzburg largely blew that assumption away, replacing it with a more surprising and effective observation: if politics lack vision, creativity and a drive for change, no project of any consequence will be realised, the best ideas will not come to fruition, and brilliant thoughts will remain idiosyncrasies in the drawer.
Stefano de Martino