1st Holcim Forum “Basic Needs”

Good architecture and good policies

  • 1st Holcim Forum “Basic Needs” 2004

    Guided tour of the Culture and Congress Center Lucerne (KKL).

  • 1st Holcim Forum “Basic Needs” 2004

    Case studies panel: Eve Annecke, South Africa; Donald Bates, Australia; Ashok B. Lall, India; Mohsen Mostafavi, USA (moderator); Luisa Hutton, Germany; Roberto Loeb, Brazil; Weiding Long, China.

About the event

The first ever Holcim Forum for Sustainable Construction was held at the ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology). Under the banner of "Basic Needs", experts and students from all over the world gathered to take part in workshops, debates, and lectures on a wide variety of topics surrounding housing, water supplies and road access, as essential elements of society's infrastructure. 

Participants included architects, planners, developers, scientists, engineers and representatives from business, politics, administration, and society at large, as well as promising international students from leading technical universities from across the world.






Keynotes & workshop sessions

Our notion of sustainable development has matured despite – and sometimes through – the contests that have played out at numerous conferences, international negotiations, and summits. From the Rio Summit in 1992 to the Johannesburg Summit in 2002, sustainable development gained a body of tangible objectives, including the Kyoto greenhouse gas targets that finally came into force in early 2005 and the Millennium Development Goals that seek to meet a set of basic needs and halve poverty worldwide from 1990 to 2015.

Although many uncertainties and disagreements remain, sustainable development, including the associated progress indicators and milestones (2012, 2015), is now more fully defined with a better balance between social, economic, and environmental factors. Aspiring to the Millennium Development Goals, the first Holcim Forum adopted as its theme “basic needs.”


Workshop moderators & Concluding panellists


Short-term events - long-term effects

The short-term nature of temporary events – trade fairs, world exhibitions, sport Championships, music festivals, and the Olympic Games – seems to stand in conflict with the lasting objectives of sustainability.

How can provisional structures be sustainable and provide a contribution to enduring basic needs within the socio-economic context of communities surrounding the venue? Do temporary events encourage innovative planning processes and trendsetting constructions?

Common housing - gated communities

Human habitation represents one of the primary needs of society. How can this substantial challenge be met according to standards of sustainability – in view of rapid population growth and exploding settlements?

What are the forwardlooking responses to urban sprawl and the specific demands of particular social groups (neighborhoods, gated communities, golf course developments)? What are the opportunities and limits for sustainable construction?

Shrinking cities - urban renewal

In contrast to expanding territories, specific regions, cities, and urban districts are confronted with a loss of population and available employment opportunities. Such a trend stands in contradiction to the very definition of the city as a prosperous entity shaped by continuous economic and demographic growth.

Satisfying basic needs of the inhabitants of declining areas raises a number of questions. How can the built environment be maintained and transformed to satisfy the needs of future generations?

Marketplaces - shopping malls

The market has traditionally been the place for the exchange of everyday consumer goods. Mass culture, globalization, and information technology have changed the requirements of marketplaces – where the production and distribution of branded commodities as well as the creation of shopping entertainment centers have altered the basic behavioral patterns of consumer activity.

What are the future challenges for creating sustainable constructions as pertaining to the supply of and access to goods?

Learning environments - deficiency of resources

Education is the key to overcoming poverty and enabling people to excel as citizens. Commonly confronted with a deficiency of means, educational systems have compromised on their objectives.

The requirements of schools and other educational institutions, whether public or private, are multi-layered. Needs range from acquiring common skills to vocational training, from health and social education, promoting awareness of the natural and built context to raising ethical standards.

Student poster competition

1st Holcim Forum “Basic Needs” 2004

Hans-Rudolf Schalcher (Head of TCC) congratulating Florian Graf (ETH Zurich), Switzerland, winner of the first prize of the student poster competition.

Everything we do today, as well as everything we do not do, influences our present lives - and our future. Hence, sustainability is of special interest to the young generation.

The Holcim Foundation recognizes this, and wants to explicitly include young people in its activities. The foundation asked its five partner universities to each invite five students to the Holcim Forum for Sustainable Construction. The students have created a poster gallery that exhibits their approaches to a lasting contribution to meeting basic needs.


Forum 2004 – Basic Needs – Zurich

The publication records the content of the inaugural Holcim Forum held at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in 2004. “Basic Needs” features a lengthy interview with Eduardo Souto de Moura and other contributions by Muhammad Yunus, Simon Upton, Winy Maas and others.