The UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals covers every aspect of a fair, safe and dignified life. Addressing every goal with diligence and respect during a three and a half-day congress will be difficult without missing valuable nuances and important details. To counter that challenge, we have compiled the 17 goals into six congress themes that reflect the essence of the specific goal/goals and enhance how they relate to architecture and city planning.

We have created the six themes so that each face some of the challenges that lie in creating a sustainable world. Each theme collects the relevant goals and creates an area of knowledge, practice and development. No matter your specialisation, focus or interest, you can find the knowledge you need in one of the six themes.

Understanding the links between the themes and acknowledging that the built environment must accept and meet the challenges in them is a key element in sustainable futures. By broadening the scope and the role of architecture, we can work together and create a melting pot of knowledge, practice, humanity and sustainability.


The Sand Motor - The Netherlands. Photo by Joop Van Houdt, Rijkswaterstaat. Featured in "An Architecture Guide" Volume 2


The built environment exists within a larger, more powerful natural ecosystem.

As climate patterns change, so must the role of buildings, settlements and cities, and how they interact with their environment, protecting especially vulnerable residents.

‘Design for Climate Adaptation’ includes both high- and low-tech solutions to environmental design which work to make buildings smarter and more self-sufficient.

New adaptive methods for rainwater harvesting, heating and cooling, living roofs and new renewable energy technologies allow us to rethink how a building is operated and how it can contribute to its environment. Outside of the building, climate change is addressed by resilient landscaping: design for rising sea levels, flooding, and stormwater protection as well as protection against desertification, drought and wildfire.

‘Design for Climate Adaptation’ allows us to mitigate against changing environments and encourages a symbiotic ecology, promoting peaceful and cooperative adaptation of the built environment.


Design shapes our world; from the places we live in to objects we use every day. As we grow more aware of the limits of our planet’s resources, shifting from an exploitative to a restorative, regenerative and circular design ideology becomes necessary.

‘Design for Rethinking Resources’ examines approaches to resourcefulness in our practice. It includes the materials we use, the engineering of new materials, recycling of waste and use of bio-based materials, which all lends the possibility to start the cycle of production sustainably.

The methods we apply, from computational design and digital technologies to crafts revival and vernacular building techniques, allow us to innovate local design solutions while also supporting local economies. And finally, the life cycles we expect of our buildings, from design for disassembly, programmed decay, life cycle analysis and rethinking the durability of our buildings.

‘Design for Rethinking Resources’ means reassessing all aspects of the production and consumption cycles with sustainability in mind.

Sustainable futures are dependent on the thoughtful planning of cities and communities.

Næste - Denmark. Photo by Jonathan Weimar. Featured in "An Architecture Guide" Volume 2
Artists Residence and Cultural Center - Senegal. Photo by Iwan Baan. Featured in "An Architecture Guide" Volume 2


Rapid urbanisation and high-density cities are putting unprecedented pressures on the way we live.

‘Design for Resilient Communities’ investigates multiple perspectives defining the way we live. It includes economic perspectives; how self-sustaining communities, responsible land use and transformation of existing building stock reshapes the economies of our communities and allow us to change the long-term benefits for all inhabitants.

Social perspectives; how the design of the public realm, both physical and digital, affects inclusiveness and the way we live in our communities and how augmenting our lives with smart technologies can provide insight into wide-scale patterns changing the way we occupy and interact within the built environment. And environmental perspectives; how the infrastructures of our communities can be shaped to reduce our carbon footprint and allow green living.


The built environment affects our physical and mental health as humans. With increases in population and unequal infrastructure, considerations of access to healthcare, the spread of diseases and preventable premature mortality are of major concern for sustainable futures.

‘Design for Health’ problematises what design for healthy communities can be. From the design of hospitals and places for healing to the strategic design of healthcare facilities to reduce the transmission of communicable disease or focus on vulnerable groups, architecture contributes to the reduction of mortality rates and better health.

Paediatric Center - Sudan. Photo courtesy of Massimo Grimaldi and EMERGENCY NGO. Featured in "An Architecture Guide" Volume 2
Children Village - Brazil. Photo by Critobal Palma. "An Architecture Guide" Volume 2.


Beyond direct healthcare, taking action to improve basic infrastructure, such as developing sewage systems for informal settlements or better building practices for disease prevention, greatly increases public health and well-being. Finally, design can promote individuals’ health by shaping mobility and accessibility for all, creating spaces for an active outdoor life and ensuring indoor climate health and comfort.

The ideal for a sustainable future is that no one is left behind and to endeavour to reach the furthest behind first.

‘Design for Inclusivity’ considers how a more egalitarian and humanitarian design ethos can be promoted; how architecture and the built environment can encourage awareness of and dialogue about the socio-economic and political division between the Global South and the Global North and contribute to a built environment designed for all. It addresses universal design and the shaping of gender equal environments, and it discusses how vulnerable and marginalised groups can be included through the careful consideration of cultural differences and strategies for cultural preservation, how social housing strategies and the design of inclusive community buildings can work to cement cohesiveness across communities, how responsible improvement of informal settlements can stimulate social equality, and how innovation can offer new solutions to emergency shelters, refugee housing and post-disaster regeneration.


‘Design for Partnerships of Change’ happens when we collaboratively work towards peace, social justice and a sustainable future with strong coalitions. Implementing changes requires partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society.

‘Design for Partnerships of Change’ examines how architecture and the built environment can encourage such partnerships, the agency they embody and the results they can achieve. Architecture can be an important driver for change in its ability to be an instrument of governance; from the forming of local policies and private-public partnerships to the creation of participatory design methods for democratic and collaborative community planning that includes all. It can be a critical geopolitical method for cultural discourse and human rights, creating awareness of territory and border issues. And it can be used as a voice to start interdisciplinary dialogues by critical curation and dissemination.

Palestinian Museum - Palestine. Photo by Reiulf Ramstad Architects. Featured in "An Architecture Guide" Volume 2