On January 18 the European Commission launched a brand new initiative, the New European Bauhaus. With it, the EC taps into a key European cultural and industrial experience – the Walter Gropius project of a “school that could provide artistic guidance to industry, trade and the crafts” (1919), seeking inspiration for implementing the Green Deal. Despite the fanfare, what was announced on Monday is no more than a declaration of intents and a rough plan (accompanied by deceiving branding for such high aesthetics ambitions).

The EU Bauhaus’ core idea is to create a new aesthetics functional to the Green Deal sustainability objectives:

“Building beautiful, sustainable, inclusive places to live together after the pandemic”.

The timeline

We are in the co-creation phase, where anyone can contribute ideas on the dedicated website: organisations can apply to become ‘Partners of the New European Bauhaus’ by pitching proposals about possible developments of the initiative. This ideas harvesting exercise lacks indications on the proposals destiny, the moderation mechanism (if any), who the “high-level experts” are, which make it hard to imagine anyone beyond “the usual suspects” contributing. 

Spring will see the launch of the first edition of the New European Bauhaus Prize, to reward outstanding examples that already integrate the New European Bauhaus’ values. Winners are expected to be in their own way already combining sustainability, quality of experience and inclusion. The prizes will be awarded in summer 2021 when the design phase will come to an end.

In Autumn, the delivery phase: a call for proposals will fund five pilot projects in different EU countries. A ‘community of practice’ formed by all the design phase participants will monitor the five pilots. Finally, a dissemination phase will boost networking and knowledge transfer to a broader audience.  

Materialising the Green Deal

The principal novelty of the EU Bauhaus is to put in the same pot the built environment, technology innovation, and arts and culture to accelerate the green transition. This is a wise bet: giving a cultural and tangible dimension to the Green Deal will help make it more understandable and concrete to citizens. 

Beyond disciplines silos, the NEB wants to integrate three dimensions: “sustainability(including circularity), quality of experience (including aesthetics) and inclusion (including affordability)”. So to say, the rush to sustainability is not only a job for scientists and engineers: it requires a 360 adaptation of our ways of thinking and living. 

A final thought: many Green Deal articles online use pictures of Bosco Verticale by architect Stefano Boeri in my hometown Milan. While it is doubtless that the building itself is an interesting experiment of sustainable architecture, I hope it will not become the symbol of the New European Bauhaus: its exclusive, pricey apartments are the opposite of an inclusive green transition.

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