Today’s world, like never before in history, is under pressure from constant and revolutionary change caused by the ever-growing digitalization that is already affecting every aspect of our lives. A major unexplored area of the effects and future potentials of this ongoing digital revolution is to be found in the field of the built environment. More specifically, there are huge opportunities for the built environment in the interrelation of the new digital tools, the traditional building craft techniques, the current design practice and the values behind the process of shaping the built environment. The core question of the BuildDigiCraft strategic partnership is the question of how we are shaping the future built environment in a world of growing digitalization and professional specialization.

Consequently, the project seeks to embrace the huge opportunities arising from the available digital tools (i.e., building information modelling [BIM], software tools for parametric design, digital fabrication, rapid prototyping, CNC technologies, drones, robotics, etc.) while at the same time it reconnects the actors (designers, builders and users) and the projects (e.g., the built environment) with the work qualities of craftsmanship. Taking the traditional Hanseatic and Nordic craft guilds as a starting point, and based on the understanding that craft values are deeply sustainable as their core value is quality and reducing wasteful approaches, the project addresses the need to introduce a new mindset for a high-quality Baukultur in the future generation of European designers, planners and building practitioners.

Here, the German term Baukultur, officially agreed by the European Ministers of Culture at the Davos Conference in January 2018, has been introduced to underpin the understanding that the built environment is not only the collection of the existing and contemporary building stock and infrastructure but also involves all the processes and activities required for its creation. Based on such an understanding, the Davos Declaration gives further incentives to society, politics and science to re-think the current situation which is marked through disciplinary blinkers, ephemeral profit maximization or digital automation – to name but a few examples.

Therefore, the overall objective of the BuildDigiCraft project is to establish a European training network for young researchers, teachers and practitioners that promotes innovative teaching approaches for shaping the built environment in the digital age. By addressing the potentials of digitalization and its effects on the built environment, the new teaching approaches will be aimed at enabling the introduction of an imminent and highly necessary cultural and organizational change in the planning and building sector in Europe.

The methodological approach of the project reflects the understanding that the shaping of the built environment is a result of complex and diverse processes and includes design, planning, construction and maintenance. Generally speaking, these processes are influenced by the available knowledge and an understanding of materiality. As a result, the project outputs will be developed reflecting these three perspectives.

BuildDigiCraft brings together eight partners from the Baltic Sea region, from Germany, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Denmark, all leading universities in the disciplines of the built environment in their countries. The project builds on a previous strategic partnership  which was focused on interdisciplinary teaching in the field of the built environment and is part of a long-term strategy for sustaining and further developing of the established network.