IBA is an abbreviation for Internationale Bauaustellung (International Building Exhibition). As part of building culture, IBAs have been among the most influential instruments for urban development in Germany and outside its borders for over a century. Over a project period of approximately ten years, IBAs seek forward-looking and sustainable solutions in architecture and urban development. Innovative approaches and excellent design are two key components of the IBA’s work. Under a specific guiding topic, IBAs are located in an urban district, a city, a region or a Federal State. The results of an IBA, i.e. real built and designed projects, are presented in an exhibition on completion.
IBAs tackle urgent social problems and solve them with exemplary and forward-looking model projects. IBAs initiate, promote and implement processes and building projects related to their guiding topic; individual succinct key action lines dominate the work. IBAs look for answers to building culture, economic, ecological as well as social questions. They are more than architecture exhibitions; they propose new social designs for life for discussion. They also provide important stimuli for architectural and technical innovations, and add to the urban development arsenal in a region.
How do IBAs come into being?
IBAs are created from a range of stimuli and suggestions. Each IBA has a specific history. IBAs can only be implemented if the creative forces in a region – often representatives of the planning professions or scientific institutions – can persuade politicians to share their intentions and form an alliance with business and society. To date, building exhibitions have been implemented without specific schedules and prescribed rules – unlike World Expos or Cultural Capitals. The IBA meets IBA Network has guidelines for International Building Exhibitions, the IBA Memorandum, which it uses for quality assurance. There is no institution that certifies IBAs.
In addition to the costs of operating an IBA office, significant funds are invested in the project work. Private and public funds are used for project qualification and implementation for planning and building. Compared with conventional development projects in cities and regions, strategic public relations work plays a particularly important role. The costs depend on the size, purpose and progress of an IBA. Especially in the intermediate and final presentation years, significant funds are invested in communicating and presenting the IBA's agenda and projects.
IBAs receive basic financing from public-sector funds. Depending on the scope of the exhibition, this is mostly municipal or state funds, or resources from a regional body. The costs and financing of individual projects vary significantly, depending on the size and extent. Based on the contractors and the specifics of the respective projects, the private funds are often supported via separate subsidy programmes by the EU, German Federal Government and State Governments as well as foundations. This allows the IBAs to add value, i.e. by finding exceptional and innovative solutions.
Ambitious project development in architecture and urban development takes several years, not least due to the higher information and participation standards. IBAs are temporary laboratories, generally limited to a period of 10 years, to concentrate ideas, funds and resources clearly. The results of IBA projects themselves are built to last, and are intended to enrich the planning practice and building culture in a city and region in the long term. On completion of an IBA, the results are presented in an exhibition to generate international attention for their achievements. Individual projects can also take a longer term perspective and significantly outlast the duration of an IBA.
As a rule, IBAs are organised as companies, with supervisory bodies and advisory boards, as well as corporate networks. IBA offices largely consist of the managing directors, project management, administration and employees for projects, agency and public relations.
What makes a successful IBA?
The success of every IBA is determined by the extent to which it deals with current social and internationally relevant topics and visualises them with creative solutions and innovative design proposals. Many of the innovations developed in previous building exhibitions have become enriching common knowledge for building culture. This calls for a lot of courage, appetite for risk and enthusiasm of the initiators and those involved, as well as a clear strategy and intelligent appraisal of the chances of implementation.
Which criteria do IBAs have to fulfil?
Each IBA must overcome the barriers of conventional routine processes in architecture and urban planning. They must be ahead of their time with their topics, processes and projects. The projects must be innovative and excellent, in particular in their construction implementation. Every IBA must have a relevance beyond the national borders and generate an international halo effect.
What makes an IBA international?
All IBAs have an international focus – with relevant topics that are interesting to people outside the immediate area, through the involvement of foreign experts and through projects with an international reach. They involve progressive architects, planners and other experts from overseas, focus on internationally topical questions and formulate international benchmarks as quality requirements. Visitors from Germany and overseas are invited to the presentation.
How is the quality of IBAs assured?
Every IBA has its own advisory structures. Above and beyond this, the network of past and present IBA stakeholders also promotes the reflection and learning process between the individual IBAs. The IBA Memorandum developed within this framework formulates the standards for IBAs. The German Federal Government moderates and supports the quality assurance process as part of the national urban development and building culture policy. The IBA network is supported by an IBA Council of Experts.
When can the results of an IBA be seen?
Unlike temporary exhibitions, IBAs are not removed after the end of their term. Their results are preserved at the respective locations, can be viewed in the public arena in cities and regions, and are then developed further. They are often used for excursions, reports, research and conventions, which makes them meeting places and venues for education – especially in professional circles.