The importance of contemporary architecture in the regional development of Alpine regions
The Alps are characterised by a plethora of little regions that all developed very different building styles before the advent of the Industrial Age. Nature, culture, and history all contributed to modifying them over time. However, industrialisation whittled away at the differences, and the new global market levelled local trading practises, eradicating the old way of doing business. It is undoubtedly true that through the eyes of the modern Enlightened man, the old customs seemed quaint, even whimsical. Yet the 1980s, saw a change in attitudes, our love affair with globalisation had begun to pall, and the local and regional acquired the sheen of the authentic and unique. This change, however, gave rise to two schools of thought: “multifunctional regionalism” which advocates self-sufficiency, while “mono-functional regionalism”, a term coined by W. Bätzing, believes that a few well-placed financial manoeuvres are the solution to all ills. The former believe that culture, first and foremost, is essential to up-grading a region, together with a local economy powered by local resources, and the environment providing the context. Therefore any incentives would necessarily have to address all three jointly. Whereas, those in favour of a “mono-functional regionalism” see success purely in terms of bolstering the economy, which could be done using outside capital to back a few choice lighthouse projects. Neither culture nor environment feature in this scenario. Yet, the records since 1980 clearly show that “mono-functional regionalism” does not work. It has weakened the role of the region and undermined its economic and cultural heritage. It is basically “fake regionalism”. It is undeniable that any development necessarily involves building projects, thus, surely, architecture must play a leading role. Architecture is well-placed to make major contributions to any debate on multifunctional regionalism. It can potentially impact on the environment positively, while drawing on local tradition, culture and history, thus giving rise to new regional architecture.