More than 6000 participants, of which 2500 architecture students, met in Beijing from 23 to 26 June 1999 to take part in the activities of the XX World Congress of Architects.
Organised by the Architectural Society of China – UIA Chinese Section, this international meeting received considerable support from the government authorities of China, the Chinese administration and the city of Beijing. This first UIA Congress to be held in Asia lived up to the expectations of all the Congress participants through its exemplary organisation, professionalism, quality of academic, technical and cultural activities proposed, and finally through the warm welcome of all those overseeing the smooth running of events and satisfaction of participants.
The ambitious Congress theme “Architecture of the 21st Century” was thoroughly and pragmatically dealt with in its many facets by the international community of architects. The term “glocal” (global-local), often used in debates to describe tomorrow’s architecture, could also be applied to this meeting during which diverse cultural and architectural identities were asserted from a worldwide platform. The important place given to education and to the work and participation of architecture students also showed the real desire of the organisers – in close collaboration with the universities – to deal with the future of architecture and the profession as a reality being built through the joint effort of professionals and future architects of the world.
The Congress was divided into two parts: on 23 and 24 June the main conferences on the Congress theme and sub-themes by different reporters, then on 25 and 26 discussions on the five sub-themes in the 132 seminars led by renowned international architects, specialists, university lecturers and UIA Work Programme directors. The papers presented were published in three reference works, as well as the “Beijing Charter”, a general synthesis – and the interventions by 12 reporters on the Congress sub-themes.
The first two days of the Congress took place in the Great Hall of the People, the Parliament of the People’s Republic of China, where the opening ceremony was officially presented by the President of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Mr. Li Ruihan and the UIA President Sara Topelson de Grinberg, in the presence notably of members of the Congress Organising Committee and the UIA Bureau and Council. The UIA Gold Medal and UIA Prizes ceremony was also organised at the Great Hall of the People. Seminars were held in the Beijing International Convention Centre where the thematic exhibition was held, as also the exhibition of prize-winning projects of the international student confrontation, the “Architecture and Eradication of Poverty” competition, Work Programme and Member Section exhibitions, an exhibition on Chinese childrens’ drawings on the theme “Housing for the New Century” and a building materials fair. Other exhibitions on Chinese culture and architecture were held in various museums in Beijing.
Congress participants were able to take part in several very successful festivities: a gala dinner at the Great Hall of the People after the UIA Gold Medal and UIA Prizes ceremony; a jamboree including comedy and talent shows organised by the students of the different Chinese faculties of architecture and during which the Confrontation prizes were presented; and finally the closing ceremony on the evening of 26 June held in the Chinese Ethnic Park – a flying visit through this immense country, revealing in a few hours the incredible richness of its traditional habitat, musical and choreographic heritage, as well as a sophisticated costume art show.