Ambassador Delawie’s Remarks at the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Conference

Ambassador Delawie’s Remarks at the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Conference, April 6, 2018

It’s great to be here with you all, I’m really pleased the AIA managed to pick the right place to come for its European meeting, Pristina, Kosovo. It is a pleasure to be with you to talk about such an exciting topic – youth’s role in transforming urban spaces, for the benefit of all citizens.  While diplomacy is my real job, I do have a special interest in architecture.  My father was an architect in Southern California, in San Diego, and was of course a member of the AIA, and a fellow of the AIA starting in 1972.  He spent a lot of time transforming urban spaces, for youth and others.  He did both building design and urban planning, and many of his efforts have become iconic public spaces in San Diego.  His work was always based on the idea of making urban spaces “people friendly.”

Pristina is a very interesting city, full of vibrant ideas and young people eager to bring Kosovo closer to the Euro-Atlantic future we all aspire to for them.  However, I think you will see that there are significant infrastructure challenges that need to be addressed in the coming years.  I’m excited to hear the ideas shared throughout this conference about how people are already trying to make progress on these issues.  Architects can make vital contributions to dealing with some of these challenges.

I’ll share two ways our Embassy has been supporting these efforts. In Mitrovica, we’ve sponsored a visiting expert from the United States to talk about “Placemaking,” an idea I’m sure you are all familiar with.  We believe that the effort to remake urban spaces not only requires many artistic and architectural viewpoints, but can also be a great opportunity for of Kosovo’s multiple communities to work together and across ethnic lines.  Everyone wants to live in cities that work for their needs.  We are also proud to support the Anibar animation festival, which takes place in a western city called Peja every summer.  Last year, Anibar’s theme was “Reclaim the City.”  Festival organizers and young activists are working with city leaders to protect shared public spaces and make them something that benefits the whole community.  These are just two examples of the many projects already underway, and I’m sure you’ll be hearing many more throughout the conference.

In addition to looking at the future, part of sustainable development in Kosovo must be protecting Kosovo’s unique past through cultural heritage preservation.  I’m proud that over the years, our Embassy has awarded many grants for the preservation of cultural sites, objects and collections, and forms of traditional cultural expression.  Most recently, we wrapped up a renovation project at Prizren Castle, completed by our excellent partners, Cultural Heritage without Borders.

I hear many of you will get to visit the Castle and I think you’ll see that is a great example of both Kosovo’s history and how to appeal to the burgeoning tourism sector in the Balkans, which is doing more each year to show visitors what Kosovo has to offer.

There is one modern building I want to discuss, and that is our New Embassy, which will be completed later this year.  From the foundation up, our building is thinking green.  The building orientation will allow us to take advantage of natural light and heat during the day.  We hope our building will achieve LEED Gold certification level, with features like geothermal heating and cooling that will reduce pollution, daylight harvesting that will improve energy efficiency, and net zero water usage through on site irrigation systems and wastewater treatment.  Inside the Embassy, new art made specifically for our space in cooperation with local artists will reflect the strong cross-cultural understanding between the US and Kosovo, as well as Kosovo’s unique cultural heritage.  We are proud that our Embassy will be a part of the innovative city of Pristina that we all hope to see in the future, and I think it will be something that both of our countries can be proud of.

With that, I’ll leave you all to the many exciting discussions and presentations to come over the next few days.  For those visiting Kosovo for the first time, I know you will enjoy getting to know this wonderful country and meeting the many innovative young people who are doing amazing things here.

Thank you very much.