Barcelona is World Capital of Architecture in 2026

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BARCELONA – The International Union of Architects (UIA) has announced Barcelona has been elected World Capital of Architecture for the year 2026. Barcelona is the third city to receive this title. The award originated from a joint initiative of UNESCO and the UIA. 

UNESCO and the UIA are committed to preserving architectural heritage and sustainable development of architecture in major cities. In 2020, Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro was the first city to receive this honorable title. The World Capital of Architecture is also the host city for the important triennial World Congress of Architects. 

Barcelona win the title at the expense of Beijing 

In 2026, all eyes from the world of architecture will therefore be on the Catalan capital. At the beginning of 2020, it was announced that Barcelona was among the finalists. Barcelona eventually won against the Chinese city of Beijing. The city was nominated for the title by various bodies. These include the Catalan Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, the Municipality of Barcelona, and the Supreme Council of Architectural Societies of Spain (CSCAE). 

The current titleholder, Rio de Janeiro, will be the World Capital of Architecture until 2023. After that, this city will hand over the baton to the Danish capital Copenhagen for the next three years. After Copenhagen, in 2026 it will be Barcelona’s turn for three. 

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World Congress of Architects in Barcelona 

Multidisciplinary cultural activities to which both national and international experts will contribute should emphasise the important role of architecture in an urban context. Perhaps most importantly, the World Capital of Architecture hosts the prestigious triennial Architect’s Congress. 

In this respect, Barcelona already has the necessary experience. Because in 1996, the city organised the international congress “Present and Future: Architecture in Cities”. The congress was a resounding success with attendance of the best-known architects and more than 10,000 attendees from 87 countries. Following on from this internationally acclaimed congress, the architects’ congress that will take place in 2026 bears the title ‘Un hoy, un mañana’ (one today, one tomorrow). The focus of this congress will be on “an analysis of the role of architecture in urban development and challenges for a sustainable world”. 

Important cultural, social, and economic reference 

“Celebrating this event is a great opportunity for Barcelona to highlight the role of the city, Catalonia, and Spain as important centres of contemporary architecture and urban design,” the CSCAE said. The Deputy Mayor for Urban Planning Janet Sanz also welcomed the award of this important award. Which, in her words, positions Barcelona as an “important cultural, social and economic reference”. 

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