If beauty has always been the primary concern of painters, poets and musicians, architecture is a rare artistic category in which the place of beauty remains undecided. After all, in building plans and urban blueprints the world over, terms like transportation, infrastructure and public amenities reliably trump any consideration of appearance.

We also know that urban aesthetics is immensely important to humankind. In 2019, a widely circulated study looked into the effects of beauty in cities. The findings: that a city with twice as many picturesque locations as another saw at least a 10% greater growth in population and jobs between 1990 and 2010. In fact, urban beauty ties with lower taxes as the most important predictor of overall population growth.

While the existence of an urban “beauty premium” might feel quite intuitive, it’s only in the last decade that beauty has made its way to the top of architectural agendas, as the triple forces of a green revolution, rapid urbanization and a global health crisis have had people around the world reevaluate the relationship to their homes.

Indeed, perhaps more than ever, we want to live in cities that inspire creativity, put us at ease, and boost our mental wellbeing. In short, we want to feel affection toward our homes and working places.

Of course, that brings the complex question of what constitutes urban beauty. Is it symmetry or irregularity? Mystery and colors? Is it spontaneous order, or perhaps orderly chaos?

What we do know is that surface plays an important part in the emotional depth of a city. That also means that in the years and decades ahead, architects will have to balance the demand for more sustainable buildings with the need to create structures that move and inspire us.

The imperative to build beautifully is one of the topics we cover in the latest episode of WICONA Meets. This time around, our team ventured to Copenhagen to talk to Steen Elsted Andersen, Head of Facade Design at architectural firm Henning Larsen about how to build and design beyond tomorrow.

With more than 20 years of experience in technically complex structures and facade solutions, Steen has led and participated in a wide range of prestigious facade design projects around the world, including the Opera in Copenhagen and the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center in Reykjavík.

Watch the full episode here: WICONA Meets