Architects, consulting engineers, and urban/spatial planners:
building living spaces, building lives
The Order of Architects and Consulting Engineers (OAI) – its members (regulated independent professions of architect, consulting engineer, interior architect, urban/spatial planner, and landscape architect/landscape engineer) design Luxembourg’s resilient living environment.
Luxembourg is located at the heart of Europe, at the cultural crossroads between Germany, Belgium and France, among others. The interregional and international exchanges that result from this location result in the country’s high-quality architectural and technical creations. This location also encourages the constitution of multilingual, multicultural teams. These influences translate to construction in Luxembourg having an identity all its own.
OAI professionals’ openness to the world is enhanced by the fact that the staff of architectural practices have often studied abroad and have retained from that experience – as well as cultural enrichment as individuals – an increased adaptability to foreign markets. Thanks to the establishment in Luxembourg of major international clients in recent years, the OAI’s member practices have had the opportunity to put together a pool of know-how and experience useful for their future projects. The OAI’s member firms also participate in increasing numbers of architectural competitions and conferences.
Every two years, for example, flagship projects in Luxembourg are put forward for the European Union Prize for European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture/Mies Van der Rohe Award.
Among other things, the essence of the OAI professions comprises:
• Qualifications, skill, expertise, creativity and ingenuity
• Professional independence and code of conduct
• Professional liability, ten-year liability for structural integrity and two-year liability for fittings/fixtures
• Obligation to take out insurance policies covering these liabilities
• Independence from any commercial activity, in order to prevent conflicts of interest
• Defence of the interests of the public, the project sponsor and the users
Under their professional code of conduct, OAI professions may publicise their activities, but discretely, avoiding any flashy advertising.
About the OAI
The mission, as laid down in Luxembourg legislation, of the Order of Architects and Consulting Engineers (OAI) is to ensure the application of the rights and responsibilities of the OAI’s five regulated professions: architect, interior architect, consulting engineer, urban/spatial planner, and landscape architect/engineer.
Beyond its statutory mission as a professional body and as a public interest body, the OAI highlights the true scale of its members’ work in economic, social, artistic and cultural terms, for a sustainable, smart and high-quality living environment.
It is a very dynamic sector that is booming: since 1990, the number of architectural practices has more than trebled (531 in 2021) and the number of consulting engineer practices has more than quintupled (207 in 2021). These Luxembourg-based firms currently employ some 5,500 people.
The website www.oai.lu gives detailed explanations of the OAI professions and of the OAI’s activities. The directory of OAI members is a user-friendly and powerful search tool, giving quick access to practices’ details.
The OAI regularly organises exhibitions, conferences and roundtables on topical issues, such as housing, sustainable construction and spatial planning. They can be viewed in the media library of the website www.oai.lu and on the OAI YouTube channel.
Architecture policy: the culture of living together
The crystallisation of a critical step in the emergence of a collective awareness of the importance of the country’s living environment and its management, the government approved, on 11 June 2004, the architecture policy programme entitled Pour une politique architecturale (For an Architecture Policy) prepared on the OAI’s initiative by the interministerial and interprofessional group. It is available from the media library of the website www.oai.lu.
The OAI has also been fully involved by the Ministry of Culture in preparing the Luxembourg Government’s cultural development plan, known as Kulturentwécklungsplang 2018-2028.
Heritage is one of the key areas in this regard (National Sites and Monuments Service (SSMN), European Heritage Days) and a long-term approach must be taken: today’s buildings are tomorrow’s heritage.
The OAI is a member of numerous international organisations:
the International Union of Architects (UIA), the Architects’ Council of Europe, the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC), the European Federation of Engineering Consultancy Associations (EFCA), the European Network of Architects’ Competent Authorities (ENACA) and Euroka (the group representing all the architectural associations of Luxembourg and its neighbouring regions in France, Belgium and Germany), among others.
With a view to instilling a more holistic approach, the OAI has developed Maîtrise d’œuvre OAI (OAI project management) – MOAI.LU. It is a methodology for cooperation between OAI-member architects and consulting engineers, intended to optimise the process of drawing up a project execution plan.
It offers a comprehensive and smart response to the current challenges with creating a resilient living environment that enables people to live together in harmony. In other words, MOAI.LU contributes to ensuring balance through a project execution plan drawn up jointly, taking account of users’ needs, the project sponsor’s economic interests, the requirements of public authorities, etc.
Art in construction and public spaces
Launched in 2021, the Art in Situ OAI contest forms part of a broader awareness-raising campaign intended use creative ways of better incorporating art into construction and public spaces, in particular by the public sector, in line with the legislation on this subject.
The idea is that, for three years, the OAI offices/Forum da Vinci will host an installation/artwork that fits with the site. The OAI undertakes to pay for the production of the selected project and the artist’s fee.
The piece will remain the property of the artist, who will be able to take it away after the installation is dismantled. During the exhibition period, the selected artist also undertakes to take part in a series of conferences and other events on their process, on the work itself and on the issues posed by the site. The process of creating the piece will be documented in a film and a publication (print and online).
How can you find out about architecture, engineering and urban planning in Luxembourg?
Numerous initiatives set up by the OAI can give an overview of Luxembourg’s architectural and technical riches.
Placed under the patronage of His Royal Highness the Grand Duke, the OAI Bauhärepräis is awarded every four years to private or public project sponsors who, through completed project, have managed to champion high-quality architecture, engineering and urban planning. It highlights and showcases the relationship of trust that has enabled the partnership of project sponsors and designers to express themselves particularly fruitfully.
At a time when the Grand Duchy is undergoing profound change in its urban and village spaces due to intense demographic pressure, the OAI Bauhärepräis underlines the know-how of those who are shaping the Luxembourg of today and tomorrow thanks to project sponsors committed to the culture of building and are developing a setting for the people of the country to live together in harmony.
Why a prize for project sponsors?
1. To honour the exemplary partnership between project sponsors, on the one hand, and the team of architects/consulting engineers, on the other, and their joint contribution to Luxembourg living environments.
2. To inspire and motivate future project sponsors.
3. To offer a great chance to discuss the way in which we build and live together; the Bauhärepräis Special Prizes cover themes that are very current, such as heritage, ecology, habitat, accessibility and encouraging young people.
4. To boost the impact of new ideas and know-how in Luxembourg.
5. To dare to hear the opinions of a highly qualified jury, totally independent of the OAI.
Every two years, the OAI publishes the Guide OAI Références, which offers the general public a complete overview of the built environment that Luxembourgers live in and of the changes to it. The know-how and skill of OAI members is set out in a single document, through completed construction projects, such as individual homes or blocks of apartments, administrative buildings, public facilities, civil engineering structures or renovation of old buildings. The OAI professions cover the art of working with clients to design and realise individual ideas; the Guide OAI Références also seeks to be an effective tool for anyone wanting to engage an OAI professional.
With its first three issues, Architectour.lu has established itself as the leading guide for finding out about contemporary engineering and urban planning in the Grand Duchy. Architectour.lu is contributing to promoting the country through the Ministry of the Economy’s “Luxembourg – Let’s make it happen” campaign, the website www.inspiringluxembourg.com and the website www.visitluxembourg.com. The Luxembourg diplomatic network of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the work of the Chamber of Commerce and the initiatives of the Ministry of Culture draw on the riches of this guide.
Internationally, the OAI produces the book Design First, Build Smart and, in particular, its website www.laix.lu, which stresses global-level projects to which contextual solutions have been provided, and the know-how of OAI members in respect of buildings with environmental certifications.
Making young people more aware of OAI professions
The OAI’s member practices are always on the lookout for qualified staff. In order to make young people more aware of the benefits of a career in an OAI profession, the OAI makes available to secondary schools a list of OAI members prepared to take part in information days in secondary schools, so that pupils can find out about the OAI professions. The OAI has produced materials for the members in question, in particular the brochure Il y a du Génie dans votre quartier (There is Engineering in your Area) and the website www.unplanpourtonavenir.lu.
Every three years, the OAI also works with the National Youth Service (SNJ) to organise the Cabins Festival, an architecture-creativity competition open to young people aged 12-27. This initiative’s main goals are to demonstrate young people’s creative potential in an original field, to make them more aware of architecture, to enable them to take on a future role as a project sponsor for a sustainable living environment, and to offer an event that gives young people from very different backgrounds the chance to work on a joint project. The 2007 SNJ/OAI Cabins Festival brochure won numerous European design prizes, including the Red Dot Award; it was the first time that the winner of this award was from Luxembourg.
The OAI regularly works with the University of Luxembourg to ensure that the course content of the university’s Bachelor’s and Master’s in Engineering and Master’s in Architecture meet the needs of OAI firms, and to offer discussions between academia and the world of work.
The OAI also works with House of Training to offer a programme of continuing education; the available courses can be browsed at www.oai.lu/formation. Prepared over three years, its purpose is to keep participants up to date on technical, technological and legislative developments, and to enable them to acquire knowledge specific to the Luxembourg sector. These sessions are also an opportunity for participants to meet their peers, and to discuss the trends within the sector and challenges it faces with other experts.
The OAI set up the Architecture and Engineering Foundation (now LUCA: the Luxembourg Center for Architecture) in 1992 to create a forum for debate on architecture, engineering and urban planning. LUCA organises the Luxembourg Architecture Award and the Luxembourg participation in the International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale.
The Forum da Vinci building houses the non-profit Luxembourg Scientists and Engineers, and the Order of Architects and Consulting Engineers. The Forum da Vinci is intended to be, above all, a meeting place for organising conferences, roundtables, seminars, work meetings and exhibitions relating to the development of architecture, engineering, technology and science in their broader senses.