Defining the local in the Mediterranean and the European South
Nowadays, we are facing the challenge of using the symbiosis of the global with the local as a driving force for contemporary architectural innovation. Modernism glorified the global as a vehicle of values such as innovation, rationality, objectivity, progress, originality, development, and aspiration for the ‘same for all’. After the seventies the local became the ultimate medium for values like tradition, subjectivity, culture, identity, difference, particularity, evolution, continuity and respect for ‘the right to be different’. In both cases these two poles, the local and the global, were a powerful source of inspiration, creativity and innovation.

In the recent past, we can perceive a shift from an either-or logic to a both-and one. At present, it is accepted that both local and global can creatively contribute to the quest for novelty. We increasingly understand that there is always something from the past embedded in the new, and that something from the local is always rooted in the global. This symbiotic and sympathetic relationship is an important demand of contemporary contemplation giving meaning, that is to say value, to every contemporary innovative creation.

In order to investigate this symbiosis of the global with the local and to teach it creatively to our future architects, we need to define what the local is. We are kindly asking you as practicing architect to help us in this investigation by answering the questions of this questionnaire.

This is an inquiry introduced by ARCH-MED-ES Project (www.archi-med-es.net)
In case of need for further clarifications please do not hesitate to contact us at dimkon@arch.auth.gr

1. Information about the person answering this questionnaire
Please give us some info about your Institution and your location
City and Region where you are practicing architecture
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Country
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How many years are you practicing architecture?
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Age range
2. Characteristics of the Mediterranean and the European South
What is local in Mediterranean and European South that affects architectural creations? How can we describe these particularities of the local that have an impact on architectural design? How important are these characteristics in architectural thinking and creating? We have created a list of characteristics, which we believe that can affect creatively architectural design. We kindly ask you to evaluate, for each one of them, its importance for architectural creation and the degree to which our graduates have the necessary knowledge, skills and sensitivities to consider and be inspired by them in their architectural creations.

For each listed characteristic there are two groups of three possible answers separated by one empty box. You are kindly asked to select one answer from each one of he groups.

The quality of light
The mediterranean light is a legend. It opens up the eyes to a particular look to the world; with accentuated shadows, bright colors, distant horizons, open views. The light affects the mind and the feelings and has a direct impact on the way we perceive, imagine, think, conceive and create. Our graduates must be sensitive to this specific characteristic in order to be able to express this sensitivity through their architectural creations. Please evaluate the importance of this characteristic for architectural creation and the degree to which graduates from Schools of Architecture have the necessary knowledge skills and sensitivities to consider and be inspired by it in their architectural creations.
The value of shadow
Mediterranean shadow can be considered as a play with light. Generated by the protection from the direct exposure to the sun, shadow gives volume, three dimensions, plasticity, variation but also protection, micro climate, space to be, to meet to reflect. Our graduates must be sensitive to the value of shadow in order to be able to express and capitalise this sensitivity in their architectural creations. Please evaluate the importance of this characteristic for architectural creation and the degree to which graduates from Schools of Architecture have the necessary knowledge skills and sensitivities to consider and be inspired by it in their architectural creations.
The impact of the sea
Mediterranean sea is not just water. It is the deep-blue world of Poseidon and Neptune, that affected profoundly the populations for centuries. It is life, it is crossings, it is cross-cultural exchange, it is nature. When the sea touches the land a value emerges. By the sea, close to the sea, sea-view are values always affecting architectural creations. Are our graduates sensitive enough to the particular role the sea plays in our cultural, social ecologic and financial life? Please evaluate the importance of this characteristic for architectural creation and the degree to which graduates from Schools of Architecture have the necessary knowledge skills and sensitivities to consider and be inspired by it in their architectural creations.
The climate
Mediterranean climate gave its name to all similar weather conditions that we can find between 31 and 40 degrees latitude north and south of the Equator. The climate of our area has a hot summer, a mild winter, a fragrant spring and a colourful autumn. It encourages people to stay out, to be together to feel nature, to feel the changes. Are our graduates sensitive enough to the particular relationship between architecture and this special climate? Please evaluate the importance of this characteristic for architectural creation and the degree to which graduates from Schools of Architecture have the necessary knowledge skills and sensitivities to consider and be inspired by it in their architectural creations.
The variability of micro-climate
One important characteristic of the Mediterranean climate is its variability; in temperatures, seasons, rainfall, winds and humidity. This variability encourages notions like transformability, adaptation, flexibility through which a special relationship with nature and architecture is generated. Together with the topography of our area we can find an impressive variability of microclimates when we cross the countryside or when we move from a built environment to another. Are our graduates capable to understand architecture as a creation affected and affecting the microclimate of the locus? Please evaluate the importance of this characteristic for architectural creation and the degree to which graduates from Schools of Architecture have the necessary knowledge skills and sensitivities to consider and be inspired by it in their architectural creations.
The history
The history of the Mediterranean region is crucial to understand the origins and development of many modern societies. It has always been a pilgrimage place for its history, civilisation and cultural expressions including architecture. Eminent architects in the past have been inspired by the architecture of mediterranean area to design innovative architectural creations. The history of architecture is always an important part of architectural education. How can the history of our region become a source of inspiration for the new, the innovative, the other going beyond its traditional role to feed the nostalgia for the past glory of the traditional and the vernacular? Please evaluate the importance of this characteristic for architectural creation and the degree to which graduates from Schools of Architecture have the necessary knowledge skills and sensitivities to consider and be inspired by it in their architectural creations.
The color palette
Since the antiquity, the mediterranean area was extremely colorful. Affected by light, the mediterranean polychromy was not only applied in the pursuit of lifelikeness but also and primarily as a vehicle for philosophical and aesthetic investigations on the human experience. Are our graduates aware and experienced in the power and the value of the color in architectural creations and expressions? Please evaluate the importance of this characteristic for architectural creation and the degree to which graduates from Schools of Architecture have the necessary knowledge skills and sensitivities to consider and be inspired by it in their architectural creations.
The cultural particularity
The ‘other’ is a mirror through which we understand ourselves. To get self-understanding and knowledge is a very important factor of the development of the local. The Mediterranean area, through history, had established and extended a dialogue between cultures and created one of the most distinguished civilizations, which have influenced positively a wide development of the human cultures. Are our graduates well-educated on the relationship between local culture and its manifestations in space so that they could experiment on new and innovative forms of this manifestations? Please evaluate the importance of this characteristic for architectural creation and the degree to which graduates from Schools of Architecture have the necessary knowledge skills and sensitivities to consider and be inspired by it in their architectural creations.
The open behaviour and extroversion of the people
A typical trait of the mediterranean behaviour is the love for outward appearances and grand gestures. Specialists argue that the Mediterranean type needs a stage to be noticed by others and to make an impact on them. This open behaviour could explain the theatrical character of mediterranean space and the value of the so-called collective in the open space. This local performance attitude and its spacial manifestations can certainly offer a creative insight to our graduates to think, conceive and implement innovative spatial expressions of local attitudes able to affect and form the global. Are our graduates enough familiarised with the local so that this could inspire them? Please evaluate the importance of this characteristic for architectural creation and the degree to which graduates from Schools of Architecture have the necessary knowledge skills and sensitivities to consider and be inspired by it in their architectural creations.
The open-air activities
The mediterranean climate encourages people to be in the open air for a great length of time. The propensity of the mediterranean social behaviour towards outward appearances is easily associated with a personalism that degenerates into a restless, and undisciplined individualism, which expects the collective in order to be manifested. All these understandings of the local behaviour can offer a deep insight into the profound roots of architectural creation and can open the way to be used as motivations for creative experimentations in architectural design. Please evaluate the importance of this characteristic for architectural creation and the degree to which graduates from Schools of Architecture have the necessary knowledge skills and sensitivities to consider and be inspired by it in their architectural creations.
The organisation of Public space
The organisation of the public space is dependent upon multiple parameters; some of them we have already examined previously. Created to support social interaction of communities whose collective lives are preponderantly spent primarily outside, the public spaces are offered as places enhancing civic and communal spirit. The mediterranean area has a wide variety of public spaces, which could become an important lab to examine the formal, social, ecological and technical aspects of the contemporary design of public spaces. Please evaluate the importance of this characteristic for architectural creation and the degree to which graduates from Schools of Architecture have the necessary knowledge skills and sensitivities to consider and be inspired by it in their architectural creations.
The particular relationship between internal and external space
We can say that Architecture is the art of creating limits. One of the most important limits architecture has to manage is the limit between the internal and external space. In the mediterranean area this limit has a very particular identity. It is not a stable limit as the case was with international architecture. On the contrary it is a transformable limit, adaptable to its environment following the agile relationship between internal and external space. This unique condition to be educated to think and work on a conception of a flexible limit as an architectural element, is certainly a value of an education system. Please evaluate the importance of this characteristic for architectural creation and the degree to which graduates from Schools of Architecture have the necessary knowledge skills and sensitivities to consider and be inspired by it in their architectural creations.
The transitional spaces
The mediterranean architecture is very rich in transitional spaces either in the scale of the building, or in the scale of the city. All these spaces have different identities in the urban fabric, non-permanent but adaptable and transformable introducing a profound reconsideration of the notion of the limit natural or artificial, internal or external, material or immaterial, social or environmental. Please evaluate the importance of this characteristic for architectural creation and the degree to which graduates from Schools of Architecture have the necessary knowledge skills and sensitivities to consider and be inspired by it in their architectural creations.
The Landscape
The specificity of the mediterranean landscape is the varied and highly contrasting topography. It offers an ever-changing landscape of high mountains, rocky shores, impenetrable scrub, big forests, coastal wetlands, sandy beaches and a myriad islands of various shapes and sizes dotted amidst the clear blue sea. This topography under the specific climate, the rich flora and fauna and the strong light offer a very specific landscape which can certainly offer to our graduates strong stimuli for reflection and inspiration. Are our graduates sensitive enough to the mediterranean landscape specificity? Are they able to introduce to their designs values, principles, colors, forms or atmospheres from this landscape? Please evaluate the importance of this characteristic for architectural creation and the degree to which graduates from Schools of Architecture have the necessary knowledge skills and sensitivities to consider and be inspired by it in their architectural creations.
The Building Materials
Stone, clay, straw, reeds, sand, lime, bricks, wood, marble, plaster, ceramics, glass are the traditional materials found mostly in the architecture of the Mediterranean creatively amalgamated with cement and steel are creating an architectural style adapted to the needs of the society and the local climate. Are our graduates encouraged by their education to reconsider critically the architectural materiality supported by the globalized industry and open the local materials palet to new experimentations using the new technologies and the existing know how? Please evaluate the importance of this characteristic for architectural creation and the degree to which graduates from Schools of Architecture have the necessary knowledge skills and sensitivities to consider and be inspired by it in their architectural creations.
The need of passive cooling and heating
Mediterranean architecture over time was developed not only with respect to culture, traditional construction materials and morphology but also with respect to environmental and climatic factors adopting passive and climatic responsive strategies. Galleries, roofed verandas, the semi-open spaces, yards, patios, terraces, colours, vegetation, natural ventilation and urban layout are some of the results of the implementation of passive cooling and heating strategies. Do our educational environments encourage the reconsideration of all these local experiences in a way to open innovative directions of formal and technical experimentations? Please evaluate the importance of this characteristic for architectural creation and the degree to which graduates from Schools of Architecture have the necessary knowledge skills and sensitivities to consider and be inspired by it in their architectural creations.
Water resources, scarcity and desalination
One of the main consequences of climate change affecting all sectors of the economy worldwide will be the scarcity of water resources. In the mediterranean region the environmental problems require a new water strategy in order to avoid future problems in food production, the human health, the ecosystems and the national economies. It is necessary to cultivate a new consciousness about the use of natural water at all resources of social and cultural life. Can Architecture contribute to this strong ecological thread? Are our graduates sensitive enough to this risk? Please evaluate the importance of this characteristic for architectural creation and the degree to which graduates from Schools of Architecture have the necessary knowledge skills and sensitivities to consider and be inspired by it in their architectural creations.
The earthquake
The earthquake is a natural characteristic of the mediterranean area, which affects the production of the built environment. Encountering the earthquake is not only a technical issue. It is also an architectural issue as it can directly affect the design of buildings, their forms, their structure and their functional aspects. Are our students aware enough about the constraints imposed by the earthquake on architectural design? Please evaluate the importance of this characteristic for architectural creation and the degree to which graduates from Schools of Architecture have the necessary knowledge skills and sensitivities to consider and be inspired by it in their architectural creations.
The financial problems and the crisis
Mediterranean Countries are strongly affected by the financial crisis. The construction domain is seriously damaged by the crisis and the recovery perspective does not appear possible in the next ten years even for the most optimistic predictions. How can schools of architecture cope with this situation and its impact on the profession of the architect, the identity of the architect and the new constraints of architectural practice? Please evaluate the importance of this characteristic for architectural creation and the degree to which graduates from Schools of Architecture have the necessary knowledge skills and sensitivities to consider and be inspired by it in their architectural creations.
Other Characteristics missing from the above list
Please add other characteristics which are very important for architectural thinking and creating and are missing from the above table. If possible evaluate their
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Your comments, remarks and additional information
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