Photo of a river and trees in Ljubljana

Was ist das? A new European Bauhaus!

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Last month, the European Commission unveiled its plans to support a new cultural project that is meant to shape the lifestyle of Europe’s future generations. The New European Bauhaus combines the functionality and energy efficiency needed to achieve the objectives of the Green Deal with the unique elegance of European style in designing living spaces and tools. Could this change the relationship between our cities and nature and positively influence how we live?

Taking inspiration from the great ideas of the past is becoming the leitmotif of the present European Commission. However, this time the spark did not come from an overseas proposal, as happened for the European Green Deal: the source of inspiration for this new EU Commission scheme comes from a movement that was conceived in the mind of the famous architect Walter Gropius. The “original” Staatliches Bauhaus was established in Weimar, the cradle of the German Republic between the two world wars.

Challenging times like those we are living in raise the need for creative, innovative and sustainable projects with tangible and visible impacts on our daily lives. Recovery from the pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis is inextricably intertwined with the effort to reach the ambitious objectives of the Green Transition. To achieve the European Green Deal’s carbon neutrality objective by 2050, Europe needs to look beyond the current crisis and think of how European creativity can be stimulated to gain the novel perspective of a circular, sustainable economic model for all business sectors.

Since our buildings are responsible for roughly 40% of overall carbon emissions, the construction industry must be profoundly transformed to keep global warming below the agreed objectives. Therefore, architecture and design need to scale up to respond to these new needs. More than one hundred years after the establishment of the original Staatliches Bauhaus by the renowned architect Walter Gropius in Weimar, this new project aims to inspire the transformation of the European urban landscape. The Weimar Bauhaus represented a creative response to the rising industrialization of that era, enhancing the functionality and affordability of designs and inspiring a new concept of beauty for the growing urban landscapes.

Inspired by those ideas, this new Bauhaus “movement” plans to connect those values with the circularity and sustainability needed to apply the objectives of the European Green Deal to our living spaces. Making our architecture more energy-efficient (and more beautiful) could allow future buildings to become significant contributors to the decarbonization process, capturing substantial amounts of CO2 instead of producing it. Close cooperation between science and art will be another vital point of this new approach, hopefully inspiring new solutions to our complex societal issues, improving the quality of citizens’ lives and reconciling urban spaces with nature. Furthermore, it could give the Green Deal a tangible and pleasant element to refer to, symbolize the progress of Europeans towards the sustainability goals they have set for themselves.

The New Bauhaus should act as a design lab, accelerator, and network simultaneously and will develop in three distinct phases: Design, Delivery and Dissemination. The Design phase should last until the end of summer 2021 and is meant to explore and convene existing examples of good practice in order to generate and elaborate ideas and insights that will be shared with practitioners worldwide. For this purpose, a New European Bauhaus Prize will be launched later this spring, rewarding the inspiring examples that exemplify the key elements of the project. Additionally, a high-level roundtable will bring experts, thinkers and specialists from all over the world to contribute with their ideas to the movement’s success.

The Delivery phase will start setting up at least five practical pilot projects, which will be monitored by a community of practitioners formed by all participants of the previous “Design” phase. Hopefully, this will provide virtuous examples that could significantly impact the entire European construction and furniture industry. The subsequent Dissemination phase should focus on diffusing the new concepts to a broader audience, sharing knowledge and novel creative ideas on the best available solutions and methods to help to replicate them throughout Europe and beyond.